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Bernd's Metta adventure

Bernd's Metta adventure bernd the broter 3/10/17 4:11 AM
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RE: Bernd's Metta adventure Noah D 11/8/16 7:52 AM
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Bernd's Metta adventure
3/10/17 4:11 AM
Hi all,

this is my 1st practice log. I intend to irregularly post random observations, thoughts or questions about my practice.
Answers, help and random comments are very appreciated.

The first post will contain my experiences on a Metta retreat I did lately.

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/10/17 4:18 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
In Dec. 2013, I participated in a Metta retreat led by Bhante Sujato. This was quite impressive, so I'm posting a bit of information about it in general, and about my experiences there, before the memory fades.
I thought about posting this information on the retreat centre page, but since it was done in a rented location, I didn't. But: if you ever think about doing a retreat with Bhante Sujato, it will probably be similar.

This post has 2 parts. The first is about the organization of the retreat and the technique in general. The second contains my own experiences. I talked to some other persons and found that those varied very much, so I'm not claiming that what I experienced is what usually tends to happen.


First, here is the schedule:

Tuesday 10th December
14:00 Arrival and registration
18:00 Welcome
18:15 Introduction, chanting, meditation teaching
21:00 Meditation (optional)

11th – 20th December
6:00 Guided meditation
8:10 Breakfast
8:45 Meditation & interviews
11:00 Lunch
12:00 Relax/informal meditation
14:00 Meditation & interviews
17:00 Afternoon tea, rest
19:00 Chanting & Dhamma talk
21:00 Meditation (optional)

Saturday 21st December
6:00 Guided meditation
8:10 Breakfast
8:45 Meditation & interviews
11:00 Lunch
12:30 Farewell gathering
14:00 Finish

Obviously, the schedule is very relaxed. Note that this was only a suggestion. Everyone was allowed to do whatever he or she wanted at any time, even not attending the dhamma talk would have been ok. Doing things like yoga or tai chi in between was totally allowed and even encouraged, too.
Also, there was no strict rule of noble silence. Everyone could do noble silence or just not.
A note on Bhante Sujato: He's really cool. He got somewhat infamous through a series of youtube videos in which he 'gossips' about some other Theravada lineages, e.g. Goenka, Mahasi, Ajahn Tong, Pa Auk (e.g.
This makes him seem like a bit of a 'fundamentalist sutta head', but that impression is misleading. He's very pragmatic about practice, (in fact he's more pragmatic than all the goenka/mahasi teachers I've studied with so far) but knows a ton of stuff about the suttas. He denies that the MCTB-fruition is what the suttas describe as stream entry, but that's pretty irrelevant for practice, especially if you're going to take a Metta retreat with him.
Sujato mainly leads Metta retreats, because hardly anyone else is doing it. The dhamma talks in the evening were a mixture of practical advice, stories from the suttas, and his own stories. They were extremely nice to listen to, very helpful and funny. After that, Sujato would answer all kinds of questions. (Everything from 'can you even ride a bike with those robes?' to 'I read this particular thing in line 123 of sutta 654, what's your interpretation of it?')
Also, Sujato seems to do different dhamma talks every time. There were maybe 5% of stuff I recognized from his other Metta talks on the net.

The metta meditation method he teaches he's got from some teacher of him, Ajahn Maha chatchai. This is how it works:
The metta consists of four stages: metta to self, loved one/friend, neutral person, the disliked person(i.e. "someone who's going on your nerves"). you start with the first, and after some days of retreat you can also include the 2nd person, and so on.
Repeat the words "may I be happy" in your mind, and keep the rest of your attention in the body, e.g. in the heart region. When the feeling of metta comes up, let it spread through the whole body.
This method is so simple, it's totally idiotproof. Which I really like about it. This can be done while sitting or walking. According to Bhante Sujato, the following is a good way to do a meditation session:

1. sit down and get settled in the present. for some minutes just be aware of the body in general, of the body sensations of sitting and of the skin touching the clothes. see how the mind generally feels now and accept that.
2a. start with stage 1 of metta meditation. Say the words "may I be happy" over and over again, as if you really mean it, "like Shakespeare".
2b. after some time go to stage 2 of metta. (aka the loved one) This happens by exchanging just one word: "May X be happy."
2c. stage 3
2d. stage 4: the disliked person. after this stage, the mind could go into jhana, but that takes a lot of time.
3. let the words of metta go. let the feeling of metta dissolve. watch how the mind goes back to a neutral state. (don't skip this! Note that this actually develops insight into anicca, too.)
4. reflect: what happened in this session of meditation? how did my mind behave? what was (un)helpful for the meditation?
5. send merits to anyone.

On the retreat, we also did general mindfulness meditation in whichever style we wanted to. The instruction was to do Metta just whenever it feels good to do so - otherwise do another meditation. So the task was implicitely to develop some intuition for that.


So, here are some of my own experiences on the retreat:

I was kind of ill at day 1,5,9, so I slept over most of these days.(Sujato said that this isn't something which usually happens to people in Metta retreats so don't worry.) Also, I can't do walking meditation for long periods of time due to knee pains. Since I needed to balance walking meditation with sitting, this also reduced my sitting time. Apart from that, I felt too undisciplined to strictly adhere to the noble-silence rule. All in all, i never felt as lazy on a retreat as on this one.
So I probably only did 30-50 hours of meditation in total, which still turned out to be quite impressive.

Day 0: Introductory talk. Everyone got a picture of a teddy, and of a young cat (or other animal)
Cute! Note: teddy is a meditation master. Whenever you don't know what to do, look at teddy. he meditates all the time, and he's so good at it! Teddy was sitting at the front for the whole retreat.

Day 1: This day was about establishing some mindfulness first with whatever technique we felt comfortable with, so no Metta yet. When I told Sujato that I felt horrible, he told me to go and get some sleep. So not much happened on this day.
In the evening, Sujato introduced the Metta meditation method first. He talked a bit about something he called 'the problem of subject-object-duality'. In his experience, people often think things like "this or this has to vanish from my mind, so I can do the metta meditation properly. He insisted that this attitude futile, and that we need to accept our responsibility for everything that's going on in our mind.
This seemed quite important for him, but I'm still not really sure of what he was getting at.

Day 2-4: I did some really good practice here. On day 4 or so, the 2nd stage of metta was introduced. The mind slowly became calmer, but also quite tired. I added walking meditation to the mix, then the tiredness vanished.
I asked Sujato, whether we needed to concentrate on the intention of Metta, or only on the words. He said that the intention is somewhat subtle, and it is best to start with the obvious thing - the words - first, and just go to the feeling when it arises, without worrying much about the intentions.
The Metta feeling sometimes showed up, but usually didn't stay for long. By day 4, it got more reliable. It seemed to turn into a disposition, like a subtle undercurrent, which was always there. I felt like a genuinely friendly person by this time. Cool!

The words sometimes changed their appearance in the mind. At the beginning, the mind would often start to play around with the words. I saw the words (i.e. the actual letters) in my head changing their size, their colour, dancing around... and doing all kinds of weird things. After a day or two, this stopped.
After that, some random intentions seemed to 'mix in' with the metta phrases. So I would say "may I be happy" and notice that I was actually angry/resignating/sad/... when I said that. So I tried to say the words with more conviction again, and some other intention would interfere. It often took several tries to 'nudge' the mind back in the right direction.

In meditation, some difficult emotions would come up and I didn't really know how to handle this in meditation. Sujato taught me to hold them as a 'little child' for a while, so they would be soothed. ("but not all the time, or they become spoiled brats!")
This seemed quite difficult at first, but then worked surprisingly well. (On Mahasi retreat, I was usually told to just notice them and go back, which wouldn't really help, so I was very positively surprised at this way of dealing with them.)
Sujato stressed that all these things needed some experimentation, and that we shouldn't see it as failures if it doesn't work at once. He likened learning meditation to Edison's 10.000 tries of producing a working lightbulb.

Usually when I sat down to meditate, a lot of sadness came up. And some resistance to the idea of "may i be happy". But it never became more concrete.

Sujato also taught me a bit how to trust my intuition, so I could start and end meditation sessions without a timer (which was forbidden in the meditation room). I had virtually never practiced without a timer, so this was quite unusual for me. After some time, I really started to appreciate this way of practicing.

Day 5: I wasn't well for seemingly no reason at all (felt very good the days before), so I slept for most of the day. So not much happened here.
I noticed that the feeling of metta would come more often and more reliably, and with the liked person it was much easier. When I started giving up on really wanting the Metta feeling to appear, it came just by itself.
Usually, I would then invite it to spread in my whole body, and one of two things happened:
a) something else (e.g. anger or distraction) came up, I would lose focus and the Metta would be gone.
b) I would try to somehow force the Metta into spreading in my body. Then the feeling would soon vanish, too.

Day 6-7: This is where practice became REALLY interesting.

Sujato introduced us to the 3rd stage of Metta, the neutral person. He talked a lot about how we need to develop the 4 'iddi-palas'(not sure if that's the correct term) because otherwise we would likely become too uninterested in the meditation and fall in the 'bawonga'-state. (i have no idea how this is written in pali)
So before every session we should reflect on some things, among them our motivation to practice. I felt totally demotivated and it felt as if my mind was resigning before I had even started. I was absolutely convinced that it was impossible to develop Metta for the neutral person, and somehow also that it was actually a dangerous idea.
I talked to Sujato about this - he told me that this means I'm not ready for the 3rd stage yet: "At some time, the mind wants to go there by itself, then it will be easy. Until then, stay with stages 1&2. This reaction is actually very useful, because it allows you to check how you're developing."

I started to see what Sujato probably meant with the 'subject-object-duality'. I could observe in great detail, how the mind was really 'estranged' (not sure about the translation here) internally, i.e. there seemed to be lots of conflicts. Some part of my mind always wanted some other part to disappear, or had some bad jugdment on it.
The more I practiced, the more 'integrated' the mind seem to become. The conflicts seemed to vanish, and the mind slowly became peaceful and actually content with itself.
The feeling of Metta often filled most of my body and started to feel a bit 'deeper' than in the beginning.

I noticed that I was always using some force when trying to be mindful of this and that. Finally, I could let go of this, and just chill out. I slept much better, and I actually started to wonder if I'm doing it wrong because the meditation felt so incredibly 'easy' and uncomplicated.

Also the difficult emotions mentioned above were gradually soothed. Although they were still there, they didn't try to 'torment' me any more the way they had done before. It felt, as if I had gradually invited all parts of my mind to really feel 'at home' under one common roof.
Once they were there, I felt a bit 'reborn', and in a good way.
The most impressive instance of this was like this: I was doing the Metta meditation. There was a lot of metta feeling in great parts of my body. Then the feeling of anxious sadness came up. So I had a big block of metta and a big block of sadness beside that, both in my body. I was a bit confused what I should do now. Then, just on its own, the 'Metta block' seemed to console the 'sadness block' which in turn felt really good about it. Although hard to put in words what really happened, the experience was quite amazing.

Another thing that camp up was the wish to 'abandon the world' for some time and go an a really long retreat (like 6 months or more) as soon as the circumstances permit it. (i.e. 2-3 years down the road.)
It seemed that this wish had been there for a long time, but the Metta retreat really enabled me to recognize and accept it.

Day 8: The above developments were quite cool. So I got really excited about them. The mind started to become totally enthusiastic about them, and spent some hours developing great plans what to do after the retreat with its newly-won Metta-superpower.
I got a bit irritated, since this should usually happen on the last day of the retreat, but I had still 2 days to go...
After thinking over its grand plans enough, the mind realized that all of this would still not be really satisfactory, and felt somewhat depressed. The feeling of Metta hardly reappeared, and it felt hard to actually go back to practice again and again.
I felt like I was wasting precious retreat time, but couldn't really do much about it.
Sujato said that all these things need some time to get balanced, and until that happens, these things can happen.

Day 9: I felt really bad and again slept for most of the day.

Sujato had introduced the 4th stage, the disliked person. He said that we should think about the disliked person as little as possible during the 4th stage. If we succeed in this, the mind would really get some energy in this, and soon go towards unification. He described in detail, how a nimitta would appear, and how the mind would finally go into Jhana.
This sounded quite cool, but I was still strangely uninterested about it. He said that jhana was the place where the 'breaking down of the barriers' would happen, an experience where it is impossible to think of a distinction between different persons, i.e. who gets our metta (:
I'm not sure if I will ever experience that but I'm sure there's yet a lot of work to do before. Since I didn't proceed to stage 3, I didn't even try stage 4 more than once. Sujato said that probably 80% of the participants wouldn't get past the 2nd stage on the retreat.

Day 10: After days 8 and 9 I couldn't really motivate myself to practice much. So not much happened any more, and the mind behaved largely as if it had already left the retreat.
In the evening, Sujato answered a lot of questions instead of giving a talk. There was a big discussion about all kinds of things, especially bikkhuni ordination, religious fundemantalism and the destruction of the planet.

Day 11: Some more discussion about various sutta passages and the destruction of the planet. We were allowed to keep the photos of the teddy and the cats.

Reflections after the retreat: Good question. I felt as if reborn (see day 6-7) for a few days, but couldn't practice any more, so it gradually faded. I've resumed practice now, and am currently trying to get to a similar place like when I left the retreat. Let's see if that happens.

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/8/17 8:38 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
This seems to be a good time for a new post, since I now feel fundamentally different. I think the practice starts to permanently and clearly bear fruit.

Here's what happened: I did 2 small home retreats, length 8 and 4 days, meditating 3-6 hours a day.
And then another 6 days of practice or so, somewhere in between.
Most of the rest of the time, I kept up practice with 30-90 minutes a day.
In total, that may sum up to 100 hours, but I didn't really keep track of it.

I needed the first 8 days to get to a similar state as directly after the retreat. This means:
-more calm
-disposition of friendliness
-could call up feeling of metta arbitrarily

Only after that it became really interesting. A few more days of practice, and what came to the front was:
anger. LOTS OF ANGER. But this was hugely different from the sort of 'neutral anger' which I knew from Vipassana practice, where it also would occur frequently and with high intensity. No, this kind of anger was actually directed at myself. Often I felt as if it was bombing me with insults, scolding and... well, bombs? Not really, but it was actually physically painful and at times felt as if it actually hit me.
This was really weird. As if an external force was attacking me. Obviously this kind of 'self-hate' is something I have been exercising for probably >10 years or so, without ever really having noticed.

As a result, another part of me went TOTALLY SAD about this.
So, a typical sit would look like this: I close my eyes and soon start reciting "may i be happy". A lot of anger comes up to insult/scold me/whatever. I get very sad and start crying. At the same time, my face is full of tension, actively expressing the anger. Tears get on my tongue. I get carried away by the salty taste. The overall impression is: hilarious.

Fast forward to now:
For several weeks I felt really sad all the time. Also angry, but the sadness was the more frequent & obvious emotion.
All day I often noted that I was criticizing/scolding/insulting myself for no reason. Usually, it wouldn't even be verbal thoughts in my head. Imagine seeing two people having a fierce dispute, with sounds off. You can "see the emotions in the air", without hearing the words. That's what it felt like. With more practice, I got better at spotting this behaviour - not intentionally doing it, recognizing what was there happened automatically. Finally, it just seemed like silly madness, and whenever it came up, I would automatically dis-identify from it. So the anger would do its thing, scream at me for a while, and then leave.
Now the anger is gone, as well as the excessive sadness. I feel that this change will last, even if I drop practice now.

I feel I am still very far from mastering the first stage of Metta. There are still some obstacles (read: unclear, difficult emotions such as worry and sadness) which come to the surface when the feeling of Metta is called up. But as of now, blatant self-anger (don't feel like I even have an appropriate word for whatever it is) isn't the biggest hindrance any more. I feel really thoroughly relieved with that change, although very unclear about what will happen next. Sometimes it feels as if all the anger was there to protect me. Now it's gone and I don't really know how to cope with that.

Metta is good. More people need to do it, because it is totally possible to really be oblivious of great amounts of self-anger, which creates a great amount of suffering.
NOTE: I did >500 hours of diligent Vipassana (100 Goenka, >400 Noting) gaining lots of insight, but those methods did VIRTUALLY NOTHING to make me aware of all the self-directed anger.

The self-anger leads to the 'censoring' of certain difficult emotions, which means that it makes it impossible to create a fruitful relationship with them, which is probably a requirement for successful Focusing (Eugene Gendlin's method) and similar approaches.

Now I'll go and do more practice in the same style. Let's see where it leads.

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/9/17 8:30 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
3,5 months since the last post, so this seems to be a good point for a summary of the latest developments before I forget to appreciate that they even happened.

After the last shift (described in the last post) the mind recollected its internal inertia. So some of the anger came back, with even more force. It felt like 2 weeks of genuine madness, which I just wanted to end. I didn't even dare to practice for some weeks. After that period, the remaining anger subsided, and the territory changed.

When I took up the practice again, I found more, new anger. This time it was really different. Less obvious, more of a 'backstabbing' kind (no idea how to properly describe this o_O).

I would observe this new kind of anger for many weeks, and I discovered more and more of it. It got increasingly frustrating. The urgency of eliminating this anger once and for all became more and more clear.
3 weeks ago, in the middle of a 4-day-home-self-retreat I suddenly knew it was over. The anger would arise, and cease before it was really there. After a few hours it didn't even arise any more.
For the rest of the day, I felt very peaceful and relieved.

Now I'm quite confused. I practiced some more, and discovered more anger. It seems as if for every 'unit' of anger which is eliminated, 5 new units come up from nowhere. I start to wonder if this is a bottomless pit. My mind seems full of anger, it's there the whole day somehow, and I'm getting really pissed about it. I just want it to be eliminated and never return again. Yeah, that's some form of anger, too.

On the other hand, I'm quite happy about the anger that's already gone. In some respect, I feel more peaceful than before. It seems that I come closer to accepting difficult emotions which are still around, since much of the anger towards them isn't there any more. I'm starting to think that I need to complement the Metta practice with something else, but I'm not sure what that would be.

A few days ago, I tried forgiveness practice according to those instructions by Jack Kornfield:
It seemed curiously appropriate, much more so than when I tried it prior to Metta practice. In contrast, practicing Metta feels a bit like banging my head against a wall (although effectively) because the anger is just too much.

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/8/17 8:40 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
On reflection, I was lost in some doubt.
When I realized this, I got back on track, and managed to established a regular metta practice of 2 hours a day, one in the morning and one in the evening, which seems effective.

Since I still felt somehow stuck, I listened to Sujatos talks and reread some other material.
Here's what turned out to be important:

- Subject-Object-Duality: not owning one's behaviour. If you think "oh there's this anger thing over there" instead of "I there is anger which is a behaviour of mine", then you've split yourself in this and something else. Which is simply a behaviour which is not conducive to the Metta meditation.
Sujato talks approximately 45 minutes about it here and claims that it's a widespread problem. I find his talk helpful:
In practice, I tried some phrases to remind myself when it happened again, and "this is a behaviour of mine" turned out to be appropriate.

- It's ok to enjoy the Metta. The feeling of Metta is really what nourishes the mind and it's a good idea to experience it fully.
Upon hearing that advice, I realized that I was still somewhat skeptical if the feeling of Metta is really what I was looking for, and that I wasn't allowing myself to fully enjoy it.

Now, all in all, the practice feels much better.
Ofter during the day I will stop and feel that there are 'holes' in reality - situations where 'normally' anger would appear, just nothing happens.
Metta practice feels much less like a battle against all the resistance that comes up with Metta. I was able to let go of most of it.
Mostly, it feels just like I'm bathing in the feeling of Metta. It's also possible to do this for a much longer time. I'll need about 30 minutes to establish the feeling in my whole body. The other 30 minutes are just enjoying the feeling of Metta, which feels quite healing. After that I often discover some more anger which was somewhat subconscious before.
There's still a lot of sadness whenever I start to practice Metta, but the anger towards it seems to have dropped away completely.

It's quite paradoxical. Rereading this log, I realize and appreciate how far I've come. However, with every day, much more work seems to be put in front of me. I'm beginning to appreciate why people become monks/nuns and still think that they'll need more than one life for the job.
Every day I'm more fed up with all the anger that's in my mind, but the task of eliminating it seems so overwhelming, it's quite unfathomable, how it could really ever be done completely.
By comparison, gathering insight into the three characteristics seems like a piece of cake.

Edit: here's another observation:
When I started this, half a year ago, I regularly took 15-20 minutes of breath meditation (or noting) as preparation for the Metta part.
When I try that now (with both breath meditation and noting), it gets me into A&P territory very fast, within 5-10 minutes I find myself in dissolution, and sometimes I hear a 'silent snapping sound', and am subsequently filled with Terror.
That sequence is now quite reliable. When I try to start the Metta from there, it's much harder to stay with the feeling, and it's also not as obvious.
So now I restrict the preparatory breath meditation to only 3 minutes, so it doesn't take me past A&P.
Every time I get into the progress of insight in this way, I feel that I really want to finish that cycle sooner rather than later. Sadly, now seems clearly not the right time.

RE: The practice of Bernd
8/11/14 10:16 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
A few impressions on how it's going:

I've kept on practicing Metta. For the first time, I really don't have an idea where it is going. My impression is that there is progress, and that it comes much easier/more natural than before, but that it doesn't really have a 'direction' any more. Before, I had always some idea what anger would be wiped out next, but now it feels much more like an open experiment.

Somehow it felt like the right thing, so I started practicing noting again, usually as preparatory practice. So I'll do 30 minutes of noting and 45-60 minutes of Metta. That's a lot of sitting, which I have never done before that long, but it's surprisingly comfortable.
When transitioning to Metta, it is much more clear (in contrast to without noting) how the feeling behaves. It's usually there very strong after a minute. It stays for a long time without declining. There are also lots of other things, most importantly sadness, but the glowing Metta stays visible. I wonder if this is the Uggaha Nimitta that Bhante Sujato talked about.

I really feel that while at the beginning practicing Metta was quite a struggle, now it just feels necessary, and like obviously the right thing to do. It feels like I have begun a process which I can't let slide back with a clear conscience. I have no idea what will happen next, but I've almost stopped caring. Before I was practicing to achieve some goal with this. Now I'm much more comfortable with the idea that this is a life process.
Also, I now feel that it is not enough to confine Metta to the cushion, so I've started to do it whenever I remember it.

Visu Teoh describes here
how Metta can be done basically 24/7.
As I understand his instructions, thoughts of Metta can become a habit, replacing other thoughts, if practiced for a while. My first day of trying this looks promising, just as if there's some kind of mechanism which keeps getting me back to thoughts of Metta, without me actively trying to do so.
However, this seems to contradict Bhante Sujato's instructions that the feeling of Metta shouldn't be carried around the whole day, and always let go of after some time. So I don't really know what to make of that. I'm just trying it for a few days or weeks and see how it goes.

Somehow I also really want to go back to pure insight practice. But not before Metta has irreversibly become second nature.

RE: The practice of Bernd
8/14/14 10:54 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Hello Bernd, kind regards.

I got some personal insights reading your metta practice log.   I also have a metta practice log, and I see your approach is slightly different from mine and I see that I need to also incorporate a "nice" person to balance the practice.  However, I think I will end the practice with a "nice" person.

As with yourself I also come up against self-hatred and anger and usually it eventually takes me back to a scene of some sort of split I did with myself as a spiritual being and one side of the split had a moment (an eon might be a moment in that case) of intense dislike of being squeezed down into a mold and on some level it knew it did it to itself. Gets complicated...

Like yourself, I let anger rise passively (learned from Sedona Method) and it releases. On the other hand, I have dealt with it differently from you because I look for the thoughts accompanying it and repeat the thoughts until done.  For example, "I hate myself!...I hate myself?...."   A lot of shift occurs for me while repeating my self-talk.  

Continuing with my thoughts about anger, since a being operates off of goals or intentions, any of the basic goals of a being, when compulsive, could carry much anger.  For example, to love and to be loved and all its possible permutations.. Must love/must not be loved, etc., etc.

For example, I chose to work with people who have eating/drinking compulsions. and there is anger around being forced to eat and being prevented from eating and forcing another to eat and preventing another from eating.   No more eating compulsion, no more anger regards eating.  (My partner once had a plate of spaghetti thrown into his face when he refused to eat it.)  
One becomes equanimious about the subject of eating and being eaten (joke).  

But, if you check my Metta Practice Log you will see me putting up archetypes or identities -- similar to your practice -- and remaining passive while the mind exhausts its venom on that particular energy signature.  The results are always a surprise to me.

Thanks again for giving me the insight to put up some "saints"  emoticon

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/8/17 8:41 AM as a reply to Colleen Peltomaa.
I don't really understand what you're doing with these archetypes, and why.
My best guess is that you're trying to call up a certain 'topic' in your mind, and then practice Metta to relieve the anger which is connected to that topic?

Anyway, I don't understand how that could be related to what I'm doing.
It sounds somewhat complicated to me. I like Bhante Sujato's Metta technique just because it is very simple, so I don't have to think about adding in all these confusing some-things emoticon

More about my practice:
I've been trying the 24/7 Metta for the last few days. It's been quite demanding. So far, I can observe several different modes of functioning, which alternate without a recognizable pattern so far:

-I practice Metta to everyone who's there. The communication and the connection to the other person(s) get easier. That feels good and seems to be overall the right thing to do. I'm surprised how much fun talking to other people can suddenly be.

-I practice Metta to everyone who's there. I'm overwhelmed with anger and self-doubt. I feel like I'm no good at Metta, never will be, and I feel like I'm a total fraud and that it's just ridiculous to be thinking the Metta-phrases when they're obviously that far from reality.

-When I'm on my own and I don't think about anyone, I revert to Metta for myself as default. I usually get extremely sad, with some more vague emotional components in there, which I can't quite identify as anything specific. I nearly start crying and it's overall very uncomfortable. In this mess, it's quite hard to actually still detect the feeling of Metta. So I try to stick to the words while being aware of the body.

I also noticed that I was very much overenthusiastic in the first few days, and tried to force the practice to occur 24/7. That kind of impatience was obviously not helpful, so I managed to drop it. However, now I less frequently remember to do the Metta words.
Sometimes, though, the Metta-phrases start without me really intending it, thus reminding me to do it on purpose. Maybe that's a sign that the habit is really starting to form. Often I'm in the middle of not-really-friendly thoughts about some person, and then I recognize that it might be a better idea to just drop it and direct thoughts of Metta to them. The realization that this is even possible seems quite empowering to me.

Conclusion: I suppose 24/7 Metta is demanding, yet effective. I'll just keep doing it. There is a tendency to neglect formal Metta practice with the thought of "I'm doing it 24/7 anyway". Giving in to that temptation is a bad idea.

Another observation about formal practice:
Whenever I repeat the Metta phrases for a minute or so, some huge emotional block or something comes up. Some mixture of sadness/worry/whatever. It's always been there, but now the fact that it never changes is going on my nerves. Also it feels as if I'm running against a wall, or fiercely trying to remove it. In any way, I can't really detect what's really happening here. So I suspect that I'm maintaining some strong resistance to it, but I'm blind to it because it's so much ingrained in my behaviour.
So sometimes I start to ask questions such as "Can I somehow drop any resistance to it? Is there something I'm doing that scares it? Can I accept failure at meditation and just sit around here without doing anything really except repeating Metta phrases?" and then the thing seems to soften a bit. That looks promising. It will probably still be a lot of work to let that release but I'm glad that it finally starts removing.
Sometimes I completely let go of Metta and slide into Focusing (Gendlin's approach) on the difficult thing which doesn't change anything yet, but often somewhat soothes it.

In this context I'm reminded of Moshe Feldenkrais's famous quote "If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want."
So I conclude that I have no idea what I'm doing here, which is somewhat remarkable after 8 months of Metta in which the behaviour is always there o_O

practice plan for the next weeks will be something like this:
-24/7 Metta.
-Morning: 45 minutes of noting + 5 minutes of walking meditation + Metta (sitting) as long as is comfortable
-Evening: 15 minutes of noting + Metta (sitting) as long as comfortable
-And some forgiveness practice once or twice a week.
-Focusing if it feels really necessary.

RE: The practice of Bernd
8/21/14 5:54 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Bernd writes:
"Sometimes, though, the Metta-phrases start without me really intending it, thus reminding me to do it on purpose. Maybe that's a sign that the habit is really starting to form. Often I'm in the middle of not-really-friendly thoughts about some person, and then I recognize that it might be a better idea to just drop it and direct thoughts of Metta to them. The realization that this is even possible seems quite empowering to me."

Hello, Bernd, kind regards.

You are on the right road with your practice as long as you are persisting through the discomfort to come out the other side.

You don't really need to know about my practice, you are doing well  :-).   The similarity I see is that we are both focusing on the objects of our interactions. But not always, for example recently it was my Auntie; however I was looking for the most basic goal set expressed in our interaction since my interactions are goal oriented.   In her case it was must know/must be known, and adding that to the picture turned on more "sizzle" to dissipate.  

A person could also get a lot of metta karma points just plugging in the goal set of "to love" -- all kinds of people would come up and compulsions and thirst for sensation around love would get directly handled.  "I must love/I must be loved", etc.

As with yourself, all the discomforts appear and then vanish as I sit through them.

I too -- just yesterday -- find myself during the day putting my mind, or components of my mind all around me whenever I found myself starting to identify with it. Great practice -- to do consciously what we do unbidden all day long, i.e., create significances.

I contemplate your return.

RE: The practice of Bernd
9/19/14 3:14 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
The third "cycle" of Metta was finished 2 days ago. That's good. And a good opportunity to post again. Here are some observations:

I quit the "24/7 Metta practice for everyone". It left me sad und at unrest all the time. I just couldn't do it consistently, and felt like it brought me totally out of balance. Not sure if chickening out or just not ready yet.

I felt that I was still lacking something for mental balance, and that the pure Metta practice wasn't providing it.
After some searching, I stumbled upon an exercise referenced by Linda Graham.
Since much of the anger I found in Metta meditation seemed to be shame in disguise, this brought me the idea. I'll quote it here, as it was really helpful to get some balance. In spite of the instructions, I hold the feeling much longer. So I'll usually do Noting first, then this exercise for 5-15 minutes, then the actual Metta part.
1.  Re-sourcing

The first step, even before mindfulness, is resourcing which we can experience as re-Sourcing. To feel safe opening our minds and hearts to awareness of anything arising, we need to feel someone has our back.  Here?s a meditation practice from John Makransky?s Awakening through Love: Unveiling Our Deepest Goodness that can help us increase the sense of safety.

"Place your hand on your heart.  Breathe gently and deeply into your heart center. Breathe into your heart center any sense of goodness, safety, trust, acceptance, ease, you can muster. Once that's steady, call to mind a moment of being with someone who loves you unconditionally, someone you feel completely safe with.  This may not always be a partner or a parent or a child.  Those relationships can be so complex and the feelings mixed.  This may be a good friend, a trusted teacher. It may be me as your therapist. It may be your grandmother, a third grade teacher, a beloved pet.  Pets are great.

"As you remember feeling safe and loved with this person or pet, see if you can feel the feelings and sensations that comes up with that memory in your body.  Really savor this feeling of warmth, safety, trust, love in your body. When that feeling is steady, let go of the image and simply bathe in the feeling for 30 seconds."

Why might this practice help develop an effective resource?  The hand on the heart and the deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and calms us down.  Evoking the image of feeling safe and loved can activate the release of oxytocin in the brain.  Oxytocin is the hormone of safety and trust, of "calm and connect". Oxytocin acts as an immediate antidote to cortisol, the hormone of the stress response, quelling the stress response of fight-flight-freeze.  Oxytocin is one the best resources we have to help clients recover from the effects of toxic shame and to support mindfulness practice, and we activate it by feeling loved and cherished. Doing the one-minute Hand on Heart exercise 5 times a day will actually begin to heal the heart and re-wire the brain.

What is still there now? There is a knot of sadness/fear/anger every time I recite the words. It's been there since the beginning. I will say something like "No wonder that I feel like this" every time it occurs, which is basically a Focusing (see Eugene Gendlin) move. Then it's a bit soothened.
I got really frustrated about this. I tried to say the words "May I be happy" and at the same time try to observe, what is actually happening in this very instant. Sometimes I seemed to get a bit of control over it for only a splitsecond, and could do something else with the anger and have it walk in random directions. Very hard to describe what happened here, I don't really know. Eventually, I managed to disidentify from the anger for only a few seconds. This seemed to be a turning point. The rest of the day was experienced in peace and I had faith again, that those two behaviours (Metta and anger) could be separated with more practice. I have an intuition that this is the next thing that will happen, but it's too early to be sure. I hope so, though.

What I think is weird is that I have no good words to describe the difference between the 3 layers of anger which I have already removed. Although they felt very different, and I'm sure there was no getting around taking them up separately I can't really explain the difference between them. Also, because I experience the anger mainly as bodily sensations, and very rarely as actual, palpable thoughts.
One attempt would be this:
1st layer: Lots of direct, loud anger without reason. There's a lot of rage. Just blatant screaming. Without balance, without reason. This hurts me physically. Imagine a child throwing a temper tantrum.
2nd layer: This is more of the backstabbing kind. Indirect anger which makes me scared and seemingly wants to harm me. Really creepy. Still has some somatic representation, but is not that distinct. This has something to do with shame, but it's unclear, how. It feels a bit as if it's looking for revenge or similar.
3rd layer: This feels more mature. If it's on a coin, the other side is shame. This has a lots of accusations at myself. Which is fine, except that it is quite disproportionate never to make peace with this fact. Imagine a partner who is always nagging at you.

Something else is notable: I'm significantly more patient and friendly with many people. This change happened some weeks ago already. When other people react differently to you, or even tell you, then you probably know for sure that you've changed. It is notable especially because I'm still staying with the first person, i.e. myself.
It also helps to say "May you be happy" or "May X be happy" once, when I meet someone. I notice that I often relax immediately, and the state of my mind shifts instantly. Then it is much more fun to have a conversation, and it's more probable that I will actually say something kind. good stuff.

Apart from that, I really wish to get away from Metta as my main practice. Although I'm happy to have taken it up, basically every day I yearn for taking up serious insight practice 24/7 again. I'm still somewhere between first and second path (I guess), and it is really starting to get on my nerves. I'm confident that another shift in this direction would be no problem if I had better conditions for practice. I hope that I don't have to wait for another year or even longer before I take it up again, but now's still definitely not the time.

RE: The practice of Bernd
9/19/14 8:41 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Hello, Bernd, good to read you again.

In an earlier thread you wrote this:  
Metta is good. More people need to do it, because it is totally possible to really be oblivious of great amounts of self-hate/anger, which creates a great amount of suffering.
NOTE: I did >500 hours of diligent Vipassana (100 Goenka, >400 Noting) gaining lots of insight, but those methods did VIRTUALLY NOTHING to make me aware of all the self-directed anger."

I'm sure all of your prior practice grooved you in to what you were to eventually experience above.    I mightily share this experience with you.   This was a couple of years after a wise person told me that ultimately all is merely self-to-self -- pointing towards Oneness.  My generalized self-hatred always takes me back to the first incident in this universe time.  The first act of "Creator" deciding to add persistency to his creation.   The force behind that was tremendous as was the resistance.  As long as I insist on holding my viewpoint on the side of the "must not know" barrier that makes me feel at total effect I am stuck in this universe mentality.   As I become more and more willing to look at this incident without flinching, the resistance to this creative act lessens and I am more and more able to get into my first viewpoint as "The Creator" of this universe.  And so perceive the Oneness and Allness.

From a creator - or All-That-Is - viewpoint, all youse viewpoints is mine :-))

Even though you did a different practice than I do, there must be some commonality that helped us to each separately arrive at almost the same place as far as diminishing the self-to-self dramas.  Certainly the first important commonality was the strong intention, and we would not have had that if we had not despised ourselves, eh!   What a laugh that gives me.

You seem to have resolved that self-hatred to your satisfaction.   I'm still enjoying the learning curve re my case and how my mind got cobbled together during this long tenure in this universe (map of unconsciousness, anyone?).  I'm eager for it now, and of course, the mind gets clever and now hides it, but I know how to play zen judo too: Whatever the mind can do I can do consciously, that is the trick here and what my practice is largely based upon.  To restore conscious creation and no-creation to the being is, I am certain, possible within one short time span.

I won't say I resolved it because I find that everytime I say that -  WHAM! - it slaps me upside the head again.   Which leads me to surmise that the upward path I am on is a sort of spiral and it simply takes the agony to a higher level of awareness and wisdom about mind-games.

love ya,

RE: The practice of Bernd
9/30/14 4:23 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
(This is the last post before the upcoming Metta retreat.)

The week after the last shift was quite wild.
There was lots of more anger. It feels as if the last shift had opened a door and invited a lot more anger to come in.
After 5 days or so, it significantly cooled down.
A note about integration: I sometimes find myself in 'new' situations, when old anger comes up. After a few seconds at most I recognize what is happening, and it just drops. That feels... pretty cool.

After that came a rather quiet phase of practice in which I could hardly focus and felt like I had to start over again.

Now there's one major change: the knot of anger/panic/sadness has dissolved. It's not that the ingredients aren't there any more, but they don't appear in that solid, unmoving, stuck form. That's refreshing. It's sort of funny though how I had waited for that to happen for 9 months, and now it feels like a really unspectacular change...
My state off-cushion is always both sad and angry. I feel like I'm constantly scolding myself, although it's not really expressed in full sentences.

So I tried some more forgiveness practice.
But I couldn't really connect to it this time. It stirs up even more anger and feels somewhat misplaced, just as if the anger was upset about me trying to release it. (and, simultaneously, screaming at me to finally listen to it.)

I guess that means it's time to thoroughly learn the radical acceptance thing which I tried before learning Metta and which wouldn't work back then.
So I'll try that now.

RE: The practice of Bernd
10/20/14 6:40 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I'm back from the retreat with Visu Teoh. As I wrote in the other thread about the retreat, it was great. Can't recommend this guy enough.
Before the retreat I still had doubts if it would at all pay off to go there versus doing a home retreat. Now I'm very glad I did in fact participate.
Visu teaches Metta in a very different way than Bhante Sujato: much more open and relaxed, not with the focus on a fixed technique.
I don't know how effective that is to learn Metta from scratch, but after 9 months of following Sujato's instructions to the tee, I really benefited from this change of approach.

Visu Teoh was a monk in the Mahasi-Sayadaw-tradition for 17 years.
Towards the end of that, he came to the conclusion that Vipassana practice alone made him rather unbalanced and leads to what I call "Vipassana-Zombies".
As a result, he now teaches mainly Metta retreats to counter that imbalance of Vipassana retreats which are offered much more often.
He also talks a lot about the importance of attitudes and wise reflection.
In the afternoons of the later days, he also introduced Vipassana, Mudita, Upekkha and Karuna.
I found all of this very valuable. Often I thought "this is just the piece of the puzzle I have been looking for"

After the retreat, Visu sent me recordings of the talks on the retreat. That will probably come in handy for reviewing Mudita, Karuna and Upekkha sometime.

The evening talks were nice. Most of it was about basic buddhist theory, but every teacher brings his own experience to these things, so that still makes it special.
Visu is now 59. He is quite pragmatic and tired of endless debates, e.g. about what is or isn't Jhana.
The translation into German was done by his wife Barbara. Often Visu would forget a small detail, and she started to correct him, or add things.
So it was much more of a lecturer team than a single lecturer with a translator.
In 1 or 2 hilarious instances, Barbara mixed up the languages and started in English, with Visu attempting the German translation.
Visu also knows a few German words and every evening started to recite some phrases from the Dhammapada and other works.

Detailed experience:

2.Oct. Day 1: wasn't there yet.
3.Oct. Day 2: wasn't there yet.
4.Oct. Day 3: Evening Talk about the three Characteristics.
I arrive at about 11:30h. I meet Visu, who instantly invites me to the interview room.
He talks to me for 45 Minutes and gives me lots of instructions how I can do Metta.
Basically he gives me the instructions found on his website
I ask about the purpose of the different ways, and he tells me more about how the mind is inclined to do it in different ways at different times,
and that it is useful to get some experience when which way to do it feels appropriate.
He tells me about the meaning of the phrases in detail, and that it is sometimes useful to reflect about this meaning.
He also gives me a present: his booklet "Metta meditation&positive attitudes", which contains the Metta instructions, and more instructions about the importance of attitudes, the brahmaviharas, black humour, cultivating joy, scripture, quotes he likes, the importance of smiling, and a few other things.
I read it in the evening and am quite puzzled about some things. Luckily I have 4 more interviews to shoot all kinds of questions at him.

I decide to start by just saying the 5 phrases:
May I be happy.
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful.
May I be healthy.
May I take care of myself happily.

In the afternoon and evening I am quite tired and find it hard to get the phrases together. I often get to the third phrase and then have no idea what the next phrase might be. It's both confusing and hilarious.

5.Oct. Day4: Evening talk about mindfulness. Introduction of Vipassana in the afternoon.
We sit together in the morning at 6:15h. (after standing up at 5:30h) Visu explains the meaning of the phrases every morning.
I try to do smiling every time I meditate. As a result I get very angry. Both Visu and I are surprised about that.
Visu tells me that I needn't do it if I don't want to. I decide to stick with it and see how it plays out. Towards the end of the retreat (and still now) I actually enjoy it.
I guess I had some belief that smiling without reason is somewhat ridiculous or misplaced. Whatever.
In the interview I ask some questions about the difference between affirmations and wishes, and how to implement different attitudes.
Visu recommends to collect quotes or pieces from scripture which I like, learn them by heart, and regularly remember and reflect about them.

I stick to the 5 phrases and experiment with different versions of them to compare how they feel. I notice a few things:
-It's more difficult to say the 5 phrases than to say only 1 phrase. Therefore it needs more effort and it's not as easy to get lost in thoughts about something else.
-The metta feeling is less bold, but still there. Somehow, this way of practicing feels much more relaxed, but not lazy.
I keep getting back to the phrases often without strain. I also find the place quite supporting in that endeavour.
I conclude that it makes quite a difference whether you stay at a genuine meditation centre (this!) or at a weird giant yoga centre where staff is exploited and lots of the offered courses are most probably a scam(the place that was rented for Sujato's retreat).
-Doing the 5 phrases makes meditation while lying down easier. If I use 1 phrase while lying down I can't concentrate at all.

In the afternoon, Visu introduces Vipassana meditation. I largely ignore the instructions because I already feel quite proficient at Ajahn Tong's way of doing it.
Also I came to practice Metta, so I'm focusing on that. For the rest of the retreat I only do Vipassana when I feel that I have 'overdosed' the Metta and need a break from it.

In the evening talk, Visu talks a lot about right mindfulness.
He mentions that people often hear instructions such as "Accept everything" which is very confusing because the Buddha never taught such a thing.
Instead the Buddha instructed people to keep a wholesome state of mind. So instead of 'accepting' unwholesome states of mind, you should grab them and throw them out.
I am still somewhat confused about that statement. I have an intuition that ACT and similar approaches don't actually contradict the Buddha's teaching here, but I'm not entirely sure how to reconcile them yet.

6.Oct. Day5: Evening talk about Happiness, attitudes and kindess. Introduction of Mudita in the afternoon.
I experiment to do the Metta in more different ways.
I try to do it with the neutral person and find that it actually works (although I am still rather desinterested).
When I tried that in the beginning (10 months ago), it felt absolutely hopeless and I thought it would never be possible.
Now it just works. I'm quite impressed.

I sit down and wonder "who do I want to send Metta to?". Some people come to mind just like that. Sending Metta to them doesn't seem easy.
So I exercise some 'wise reflection' (great method btw) and wonder if it couldn't be possible somehow. The mind goes on autopilot and starts to negotiate with itself. Suddenly I find myself switching to doing forgiveness practice. I'm quite surprised. How did that just happen? Obviously I'm starting to get some real intuition about the whole thing.

After breakfast I do some working meditation. It's surprisingly easy to stay with the words. Also, the working meditation feels like doing service, which in itself amplifies the feeling of Metta and the joy in it. Cool.

In the afternoon, Visu introduces Mudita. The phrases are
I rejoice
I am happy
I am grateful
I am content
Repeat the phrases while thinking about things which you could be happy about. You can do that for yourself and for others.
I'm thrilled to finally learn this. I try it and it just works.
After that, I do a long walking meditation outside and do some more Mudita about the sky.
I bathe in that intense feeling of joy and gratitude, and notice how some part of myself won't allow me to fully enjoy it.
I feel that it's another expression of the same anger which often appears in the Metta meditation. This is interesting. I am quite puzzled about it, but it makes me no less enthusiastic about the Mudita practice.
I reflect about the past years and realize that Mudita is something I deeply lack. I realize how I'm not able to spontaneously be joyful about anything. So I'm happy that I now know how to do it on purpose.

I ask Visu about the near enemy of Mudita. He says that the Visuddhimagga says it's 'mirth'. He says that it's not clear what is meant, and continues to explain that the Visuddhimagga often says things which don't make sense at all and are just plain wrong.
For example, Metta for persons of the other sex shouldn't be done. Visu claims this is outright ridiculous and it's a pity that people are still taught this and actually believe it.
I'm not sure how to judge that attitude yet.

7.Oct. Day6: Evening talk about the 8-fold-path. Introduction of Upekkha in the afternoon.
Saying the 5 phrases becomes easy, almost automatic.

In the evening, Upekkha is introduced, which consists mainly of a large reflection.
A large part of this reflection deeply resonates with me.
I begin to understand how the Upekkha reflections are obviously true, but I also notice that I can't accept much of it for some reason.
Some new kind of anger arises. I conclude that I need to listen to this reflection more often later. Luckily I now have a recording of that.

In the next sit, my mind starts to do lots of wise reflection and negotiation with itself on its own.
I am quite surprised. I can only watch this and wonder where all this intelligence comes from.
I go into a weird state of Focusing: everything is foggy, unclear and unfinished. My body starts to bend and twist and ends up in some weird positions.

8.Oct. Day7: Evening talk about Attitudes&Metta in everyday life. Introduction of Karuna in the afternoon.
I try to do Metta for persons I'm attracted to and see what happens.
After spending some minutes with distracting thoughts, I'm actually able to focus on the Metta feeling for these persons.
I'm surprised how easy it is. I'm also surprised to find some anger which I hadn't noticed before because I never did Metta for these persons.
I conclude that this is a beneficial thing to do and that the Visuddhimagga's advice is just stupid. Maybe it's useful when trying to enter Jhana via Metta, but as an absolute recommendation it's a bad idea.

This is the last full day of the retreat, and I find it much harder to concentrate today because I'm lost in thoughts about the upcoming weeks.
I ask Visu if he has something in his bag of tricks to help against that thing. He told me to cultivate equanimity to the fact that my mind was wandering.
That helped somewhat. I still wonder though why it is so hard to not fall into this pattern of the mind.

In the afternoon, I ask Visu for good places to go on retreat for a long time.
He tells me that I should carefully inspect the place before choosing one. I should ask myself if I accept the whole package.
For example he has some reservations about the Mahasi tradition with its narrow-minded insistence on the Vipassana nanas.
He tells me that people often preach one thing, but act in a different way.
What I learned from his advice is that many traditions have serious shadow sides, and just ignoring them may be a bad idea.
After that conversation I spent some time reflecting about some weird things I encountered in the Goenka and Ajahn Tong tradition and at other places.
I figured that if a Mahasi Monk of 17 years decides to walk out of this business disillusioned, so can I, but minus the 17 years of experience.

After that, Karuna was introduced. I was too unconcentrated to really follow the instructions, but still noticed its distinct quality.
I recognized how cruelty (as an attempt to shield myself from the knowledge of suffering maybe) had been my default response to suffering.
I also saw how easy (sometimes, this still needs a lot of practice...) it is to instead cultivate Karuna, i.e. compassion instead.

The evening talk is much longer than the days before. At the end, Visu talks a lot about the shadow sides of the tradition in SE-Asia.
His wife (who did the translating all the time) also shares some of her experiences of how women/nuns are often treated in these countries.
I was sad to hear most of this. Definitely the fastest way to becoming disillusioned with the whole Monk-business if you weren't already.

9.Oct. Day8: The retreat ends after lunch.
Although this is the last half-day of the retreat, I can concentrate better than the day before.
I skip breakfast to have more time to meditate.
There is a closing talk at which everyone can say something about their experience.
I am surprised how common the problem of Vipassana-Zombie-hood seems to be.
Personally I have never suffered from it, but by now I have heard so many people talk about it, that I'll be careful to spot it if it ever happens to me.

I didn't know how much you could learn in 5 days only. I am very positively surprised.
I'm also aware that 5 days aren't enough to actually master any of this.
However, my toolbox has definitely doubled now.
Visu announced that he would do 2 retreats in the same place next year again.
Highly recommended. I guess I will be there again and see what's left to do.

My practice since the retreat:
I find it quite easy to do Mudita. Karuna is more tricky. Haven't touched Upekkha since.
I feel quite balanced, and have nearly established Metta as my fallback-mind.
The metta phrases start automatically whenever I do something where thinking isn't needed.
I'm currently trying to establish a trigger system, where certain events remind me of Metta, others of Karuna, Mudita, and still others about certain attitudes.
It doesn't really work yet.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
10/20/14 11:59 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Thank you for another great report. I really appreciate it. This thread will be a very important source of knowledge once i start with metta practice. Thanks again.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
10/21/14 1:36 AM as a reply to ftw.
Go for it : D

If you want, you can start with Visu's instructions and ask him for guidance over E-Mail, which he explicitly offers (Also for Vipassana). Look here:

RE: The practice of Bernd
10/21/14 7:42 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Bernd wrote:

I decide to start by just saying the 5 phrases:
May I be happy.
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful.
May I be healthy.
May I take care of myself happily. 

It seems that went well for you.  Let me ask you, did you say each phrase until it felt you had no conflict with it, and then went on to the next phrase and did the same?

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
10/21/14 8:13 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter:
Go for it : D

If you want, you can start with Visu's instructions and ask him for guidance over E-Mail, which he explicitly offers (Also for Vipassana). Look here:

I only just began with meditation practice. Just observing the breath. Breath by breath. The goal is to develop practice into a proper Anapanasati. I'm trying to build up some concentration power before I tackle insight or metta meditation. Do you think metta is doable from the very beginning of ones practice? I could dedicate some percentage of my time to it. I'm aiming for 60 - 100 hours of meditation/month. So far so good. The only hours I can medidate are night/early morning hours and even those are questionable(small kids). I wake up at 2/3 AM and try to have at least two one hour sittings with walking meditation in between.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/8/17 8:41 AM as a reply to Colleen Peltomaa.
Usually, I can feel some sort of conflict with the phrases whenever I say them.
So if I had stuck with one phrase until the conflict dissolves... then I would still be at the first phrase.

Visu encouraged me to not stick with a fixed method, but instead try different ways, because at different times the mind may like to repeat the phrases in different ways.
So sometimes I stayed with each phrase for 5-30 (just estimating here) repetitions, before going to the next.
Sometimes I left a break between the single phrases and see, how it feels in my whole body. Sometimes I repeat the phrase instantly.
Sometimes I deliberately reflect about the meaning of the phrases (e.g. peaceful means free from anger, worry, unrest and a bunch of other things)

But most times I just repeated the phrases without repeating single phrases and without breaks.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
10/22/14 4:37 AM as a reply to ftw.
@ftw: Building up concentration beforehand isn't necessary for either Insight or Metta.
I trained in the Ajahn Tong tradition who have developed a method for dry insight that brings most people to the equanimity-nana (and sometimes beyond) in a retreat course of 15 (or 21 or 28) days. The trick is not losing the balance between concentration and insight.

As for Metta: I started out doing Vipassana, which taught me a lot of the traps in meditation. That probably made Metta a lot easier.
But I still think Metta is possible at the beginning. At the retreat with Visu (also at the retreat with Bhante Sujato) there was someone who was completely new to meditation and this person gained some real proficiency in Metta. (In just 3 days, that's good.)
Also Metta does build up concentration itself, so if you drop breath meditation and do Metta only, that should still build up concentration. (don't know what might be the advantages of breath meditation here.)
I also think that with Metta it's much easier to practice it in the rest of your day because you can build up an elaborate trigger system.
For example every time you notice anger, you say the 5 phrases once. Every time you see/hear/think of one of your kids or your partner, you say the 5 phrases for them once.
I got lots of ideas from Visus article here, and am currently trying out some of my own:

If you dedicate all your practice time for Metta consistently for a few weeks and also do it in the rest of your day whenever you remember, you may be able to call up the feeling/attitude of Metta/goodwill at a whim, which I think is a cool thing.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
10/22/14 3:37 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter:
Usually, I can feel some sort of conflict with the phrases whenever I say them.
So if I had stuck with one phrase until the conflict dissolves... then I would still be at the first phrase.

Visu encouraged me to not stick with a fixed method, but instead try different ways, because at different times the mind may like to repeat the phrases in different ways.
So sometimes I stayed with each phrase for 5-30 (just estimating here) repetitions, before going to the next.
Sometimes I left a break between the single phrases and see, how it feels in my whole body. Sometimes I repeat the phrase instantly.
Sometimes I deliberately reflect about the meaning of the phrases (e.g. peaceful means free from anger, anxiety, unrest and a bunch of other things)

But most times I just repeated the phrases without repeating single phrases and without breaks.

Okay, thank you for answering my question.

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/8/17 8:43 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Last week I experienced a new shift. This time it took only 1 month instead of 3, so I'm quite happy about that.
This time, mainly 2 things are gone:
-a _lot_ of bodily tension
-automatic negative self-talk/beliefs
Note: this time it was hardly about anger, and rather about other unskillful behaviour.

My impression is that there has been much change in unusually little time lately. My guess is that my experimentation with some things really helped, for example:
-feeling a certain behaviour in my body and examining how that behaviour changes with different body organization.
-trying to find verbal antidotes to behaviours. Let's say I notice that I'm obviously not treating myself well. Instead of just noting this and starting to say Metta phrases, I will make a decision such as "I treat myself with respect and dignity without restriction" and really try to get some intention behind that decision. This seems to have more power if I remind myself that "I'm responsible for my current and future actions" beforehand.
-questioning the truth of weird beliefs and exercising some reflection on them.
-doing Metta as often as possible when not on the cushion. When I first tried to build up that habit it was very hard, and lots of hindrances made me abandon that attempt. But now it's really easy. The Metta words come just by themselves frequently. Even if I don't get to practice for a few days, the momentum isn't lost (this is new!).

other current observations:
Building up the trigger system starts to work. Often I'll remember 1-10 minutes after the event that there was a trigger.

Sometimes the phrases translate to well-intentioned actions. In some situation I remember to say the Metta words, then my mind starts thinking about what would be actions motivated by goodwill.

Metta for neutral persons is much easier now. But still I'm often doubtful if 'may they be happy' is a suitable wish for a person because I can't know whether they maybe are some sort of psychopath serial killer in which case it doesn't feel... appropriate.
(I also noticed a certain sexist bias here. I have this reservation much more often concerning men than women. Which is strange because my personal experience doesn't obviously support that imbalance.)
If I encounter this problem, I usually resort to those alternative Metta phrases:
May I be free from enmity.
May I be free from hurtfulness.
May I be free of troubles of mind and body.
May I be able to protect my own happiness.

Successful Metta practice is evidence for the fact that the mind can be shaped to learn any behaviour. This also puts the responsibility on myself to choose 'right behaviours' and then practice those. This task seems somewhat overwhelming to me right now because of the big number of possible behaviours and the comparably few number of years in a human life.

What's left to do:
Don't really know. Wait for further integration of the latest shift.
There' still sadness and some sort of worry, but the anger around it is largely gone.
I guess, the next thing to try is somehow to access these feelings.
This may need some amount of experimentation.

So I will practice vaguely like this:
-One session of Metta a day. I'll go back to Sujatos method (i.e. only saying the first phrase of Metta and spreading the feeling in the body) to compare it to Visus more general instructions.
-One more session a day, in which I'll try to do only Karuna or Mudita or Upekkha or something else entirely
-Cultivating and expanding the 24/7 Metta practice, consciously inserting more elements of Mudita and Karuna. For this, I use Visu's instructions.
-More experiments with affirmations, especially concerning responsibility and radical acceptance.

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/10/17 4:28 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I'm guilty of something: Announcing to practice in a certain way and then doing something else entirely. This practice log makes it quite obvious how inconsistent I behave in this regard. So what happened?

Suddenly, Metta practice just felt kind of wrong. As if I was using the wrong tool for the job, whatever the 'job' might be. I felt like banging my head against a wal
l, but not necessarily even the right wall.

So I spontaneously dropped Metta practice altogether and started to experiment with some other things.
Meditation on death: I did that some time from Visu Teoh's recorded instructions, and thought it was somewhat fruitful. It certainly changes my state of mind
 quite fast to something that feels better. However, it soon felt not relevant.
Karuna, Mudita: I did both of these practices for some time, but they also felt irrelevant.
Feldenkrais: I did that for some months. It's fun, impressive in its own way, and quite educational concerning movement. But my impression is that it hardly changes blocked patterns of the mind.
Attitudes: I experimented with reflecting about and adopting different attitudes. This, too, seemed not to address the problem.

Then I remembered the exercise from above. I played a bit with that and adopted it by adding reflection, body awareness, memory and imagination to it. I used that for a few days and experienced a remarkable shift, which gave me the feeling of much more safety, but not much else.
After that, this exercise also seemed irrelevant.

Then I used the Focusing method extensively for 2 weeks. In the first week of experimenting with that, it felt ultimately like flailing around without an anc
hor. In the second I used it in conjunction with a goal I defined before. That worked much better to keep me focused on distinct parts. I eventually experienced a series of body shifts, which together partially dissolved a major action block.

And now? I'm back to Metta. Somehow it feels right again. This ain't done yet <_<
What is obvious is how fast I was able to start the practice again. Basically from zero in 2 days I reinstalled the Metta-Trigger-System. In formal meditation, the feeling comes quite fast and obvious.
Sujato's instructions produce a different experience than Visu's instructions. Current observations: mostly it takes longer to find the feeling. Also it is easier to get lost. However: Once it's there and steady, this approach seems easier and somehow appropriate.

Metta for neutral people is easier too. The difficulties I had with this weeks ago seem to have vanished for now. Funny observation: the more people there ar
e around me to send Metta to, the more obvious the feeling appears. (Maybe this is a condition of anonymity and abstraction or distraction of doubt about single persons.)

I'm not sure where this is going. I no longer feel as if anger is somehow relevant for this Metta practice. It's simply not a thing that appears to be intere
sting right now. I often drown in sadness or hopelessness, and Metta practice seems to change something in these things, but it's not at all obvious how this
 will unfold. (If at all.)

Apart from that I'm still struggling with implementing the radical acceptance attitude. Sometimes I think I get it, but it's tricky, and I'm not sure if I'm
not completely deluding myself.

That said, this practice log gives me some faith in my practice. I gets lots of doubt about the way I practice quite often (unless in a retreat setting) and a documentation about real changes seems helpful.

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/8/17 8:44 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
In the past weeks I alternated between periods of mild and extreme sadness and despair, but without any clear form of verbal expression. Throwing Metta on everything seemed a good idea. In a period of doubt I read Jack Willis' book about Reichian therapy, but have since resumed the practice when I remembered that this is a recurring pattern and therefore a sign of progress.

Observations about Metta practice right now:
There's no longer an open conflict between sadness, anger and worry. So that's very different than what happened in the first 10 months of practice. Those things are still there, but my relationship to them has somehow changed. Deliberate radical acceptance of all things involved simultaneously is impossible. Simply repeating "May I be happy" and gently sensing what expression that finds in the body seems to be the way to sanity now.

On New Year's Day I woke up and felt radically different. Judging my emotional state in its entirety, it was vaguely uncomfortable but known to me. It felt (and still feels) as if I retrieved a complex emotional state from the past (5, 10 or 15 years, not sure about that) - maybe a symptom of some issue/unskillful cognitive configuration that remains unresolved unto this day and has since been forgotten or covered by other things that Metta practice has now unraveled. This is just a wild guess though. Still, I'm highly excited as to what comes next.

Unfortunately, I can't go on with Metta practice right now because I have a Vipassana retreat scheduled starting tomorrow. It feels quite ridiculous. I've been looking forward to having another try at intensive insight practice for more than a year, and now it seems totally unsuitable to do that. I hope that I won't waste the precious retreat time because of that apparent contradiction.

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/8/17 8:47 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I came back from a 9-day Noting retreat. I didn't write notes down, so here are a few notes from memory:
-day 0(A&P): I arrive late and start with sessions of only 15 minutes walking/sitting. the retreat obviously starts at A&P as the last 3 did, too. (and as intended by the method. According to the method, every day appears a different nana, going all up to equanimity. in the brackets I indicate what should have happened according to that scheme.)
-day 1(A&P/dissolution): A&P passes, and gets to dissolution. this is quite relaxed and not very exciting yet. maybe also observed some instances of terror already
-day 2(dissolution/terror): suddenly, some kind of phenomena which just do their thing come to my mind. I know them and instantly recognize that. The rest of the day, the mind seems to go through all the nanas all the way up to equanimity, which appears after I already went to bed. During this process I feel like I'm in a point-and-click adventure and already have the solution. Confusion and short 'blips' appear, which are so typical for equanimity. Those give me high energy. I involuntarily sleep only 2.5 hours this night, but I'm not tired the next day.
-day 3(terror/misery): Equanimity is still there in the morning, but soon I notice the aspects of it which aren't so nice - A subtle 'wanting' of something. It's only then that I notice that this isn't real equanimity. In the rest of the day, the 3 characteristics show up more clearly, and really suck. Especially walking is quite painful. Sometimes in sitting I see pictures of beautiful landscapes. These are really nice emoticon
-day 4(misery/disgust): I stand up and somehow have more distance to the phenomena. In the afternoon they become much more intense. All these things doing their own thing, ever going faster and faster... It gets really disturbing, and they are then shut down. Again, I feel as if I had the complete solution. soon after that (1 or 2 sessions), the shutting down turns to really feeling like wanting to throw up. I can feel directly in a bodily sense now where the name 'disgust' comes from.
-day 5(disgust/desire for deliverance): again, I feel like having the complete solution. the thing seems to just run down to equanimity.
-day 6(desire for deliverance/reobservation): in the morning I start very motivated and soon become somewhat desperate. only when the teacher points out certain aspects of the experience I notice that it is obviously 'desire for deliverance' instead of equanimity. I think that this is the last time I would be fooled by that equanimity-as-mini-stage-inside-another-stage-aspect, but I would be proven wrong 1 day later. In the evening, I arrive at low equanimity. Before, re-observation is painfully boring, slow and somewhat unnerving, but not actually that long. I remember going for a walk which somehow turned out longer than planned. I arrive at a junction and hear these voices in my head of 'Turn right! Go there! This is the way to freedom! Put that much space between yourself and the center!'. This seems like a bad joke. It makes me laugh though.
-day 7(reobservation/equanimity): In the morning, there is low equanimity with weak concentration. During the day, this gets better. Then, mind speed suddenly triples, and 3 characteristics come flying at me suddenly everywhere. Also then some quality of desire for deliverance sneaks in which I don't at all recognize. I feel quite desperate. There still seems to be some wanting, which is a problem.
-day 8(equanimity): in the morning it's very obvious that there's a problem. Somehow I talk myself in believing it's high equanimity, when it's actually an equanimity-mini-dark-night(I guess) of very high intensity. lots of pains - especially while walking - , and I feel like throwing up. Then there's this thing which seems like a pyramid at the middle of my attention. some weird wanting which is itself the problem. mind-speed goes up even further. At breakfast it suddenly lifts. Looking backward, the quality of desperate re-observation is so obvious that I'm still surprised I didn't realize it when I was in that state. I marvel at how great the power of the nanas is to influence normal judgement.
After that, there's low equanimity. I need some time to get the concentration up. Then, weak remainders of pain in walking, a headache, slight disgust comes up. Also, anger, unrest and sorrow fall down on me as if screaming 'in the face of all this, how dare you impose this brutal discipline on us without deviating from the instructions and giving yourself some rest?'. It is then that my determination collapses. The whole retreat felt extremely intense and exhausting, so I was quite surprised that the determination even lasted that long.
-day 9(equanimity): I sleep over and do some more sessions with low concentration and no determination in the morning. After breakfast it's over.

Some general notes:
-This thing was intense. Headaches, disgust, dizziness and pains in walking were quite intense. I couldn't properly digest food for most of the thing and probably lost nearly 2kg of body weight. At times I couldn't even get down a full slide of bread in the morning.
-This was all exacerbated by some general sense of unrest that I brought to the retreat and which didn't subside through it. The teacher thought I was in danger of getting lost in the weird games of the mind, but I don't think that's what was happening. I think that some things are just crucially important for the mind for some reason, so they will come back almost instantly again and again, even if they're noted and otherwise ignored for 30 years.
-This was the first retreat on which I actually managed to follow the instructions 24/7 without ever getting lost in thoughts. Only on the last day, that determination faltered. Often during the retreat I had great doubts why I was even doing this and how I was supposed to ever do this for a longer period of time when circumstances permit it.
-3 characteristics appeared to an obvious and wild degree. In past retreats, I always felt somewhat relieved when I found them and thought I had found a chunk of liberation. This time, the process seemed rather pointless to me. I often thought 'why am I even doing this?' and didn't find a clear answer.
-I could do the walking meditation. This is what held me back from doing the retreat for the last 15 months. Feldenkrais work obviously paid off.
-I was fooled 3 times into thinking I was approaching some form of high equanimity when it should have been obvious that I was not. I'm impressed by this 'foolability' of the mind.
-I very often noticed that I was thinking and then noted that. The next moment I realized that there was some sort of condemnation for myself, just as if thinking was bad and I'd have to be punished for that. This is basically the sort of processes which Metta dispels in my experience. Observing that for 9 days straight however did nothing to change it, except eventually find some equanimity with it. I expect Metta practice to change this aspect of experience in the following days.
-Since being exposed to Bhante Sujatos flexible way of teaching Metta, some aspects of the quite rigid structure of the method just turn me off. It's obviously powerful, but many aspects now just seem like pointless harassment rather than skillful means.

Now I'm still in low equanimity and don't really know what to do with the experience. I'll try to use the high concentration from the retreat to practice Metta for a few days, before trying out some Reichian breathing exercises. I feel quite vulnerable now, and don't want to risk anything. Also I'm not sure if I want to practice more insight meditation right now. Obviously I'm deep in the equanimity trap, but know that the cycle needs to be finished. On the other hand, right now I feel like laying aside insight practices for a few months/years to work on other things. Probably I will keep it to one session a day and see how equanimity develops, and decide from there. Maybe the end of the insight cycle (whichever it is) is quite near and reachable at home or maybe it totally isn't. hm.

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/8/17 8:48 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Lots of Metta practice the past 2 days. One thing occurred in 2 sittings:
I start the session just with the words, after a short period of neutrally feeling the body.
Getting the Metta feeling is quite easy. After some time, it becomes very hard to stay in the posture. Body temperature seems to drop and I feel very cold. I get kind of tired, but it's not really tired. For some reason I think that it's a good idea to lay my head on my legs. Then I don't know what happens to consciousness after that. A few times I will 'wake up' (not sure if asleep before) and get up, but not for long. After about 2 hours (!) I somehow get out of this. It feels as if the Metta had been running the whole time. I feel very confused, and see lots of no-self-things everywhere. I need 10 minutes to stand up again.
All a symptom of the retreat and the equanimity-nana?

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/9/17 4:49 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Metta is still my primary practice, which I'm doing 2-3 times a day if possible. Some days ago, the 5th major shift relating to Metta happened. I was seeing all the self-conviction I had already observed during the 9-day insight retreat. Now there's equanimity to it. The pattern remains similar. After finding equanimity with it, 3 more sessions were very peaceful, with only the feeling of Metta predominant. In the rest of the day, the mind stayed quiet and calm. Now it's gone. The equanimity is still there, but the self-conviction-attacks have come back stronger than before. If the usual pattern repeats, they will continue for a week at max and then be gone for good.

I'm excited to see what happens after this. Maybe I discover another 50 layers of self-condemnation of various sorts. Maybe that was the last layer. I'm tired of them anyway.

addendum (some days later): Some integration seems to be going on. I felt so confused that I went for some long walks and just waited for the mind to find some sort of new equilibrium. It felt as if it was in a state where it couldn't possibly stay. Somehow it resolved to 'being nice to myself is a good idea'. Now I will frequently think something like "I am kind to myself" and it instantly changes something in my attitude. Basically I'm now doing this off-cushion whenever I remember. This seems to have some impact on my situation. It also seems easy, as if the Metta practice had prepared me for taking this attitude.
The last time I practiced Metta it felt wrong. I'm inclined to concentrate on Mudita for a few weeks for no special reason.

I do 15/15 walking/sitting of noting practice a day. I seem to still be in some sort of equanimity. In one sitting I thought I had gone through 11.1 over 11.2 to 11.3, but that may as well be delusion. During the day, the practice helps to not get caught in various mind states as much. I'm not sure if I'm gathering any serious amount of insight with only 30 minutes a day, but at least doing it consistent may help in that regard. Or not. Whatever.

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/9/17 8:35 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Some notes:

I did a small home-retreat which was nearly useless because I really lacked the determination to practice.
Instead I read some texts, and found those two essays by Thanissaro which really gave me some understanding:

This one explains several ways in which Body contemplation (aka asubha practice) is useful.
I was aware of that it can be used as an aid for celibacy, but according to Thanissaro it is much more versatile.

This one focusses on how psychological unrest can be caused by not adhering to the precepts.
I was particularly surprised about the connection between the precepts and healthy self-esteem.

I always paid little attention to the precepts because I thought I was doing fine with them and thus didn't find them particularly interesting. I assumed tha
t Metta would be the more powerful practice for me concerning morality.
But after reading this article I took some time to contemplate how convinced I actually am about keeping them. I then realized that although I generally do f
ollow them, I'm not really determined to do so. It's a bit as if the mind always waits for an opportunity to throw them away, anticipating that some global-s
cale-catastrophe happens, which makes the keeping of some sane moral rules an unmanageable task.
I'm still somewhat baffled about that insight.
What I'll try for some time:
Every day take refuge in the precepts and look how the mind reacts. For now, this already seems to give me a bit more peace where there was constant agitatio

It also makes me wonder if a belief in rebirth and Kamma is (a) necessary or (b) extremely helpful for that endeavour. If I get it right, the argument is this:
If rebirth is true, then this very life isn't that important. It's more important to keep the precepts. Ultimately, this is the best way to protect oneself b
ecause Kamma exists.
Since I probably won't take on those beliefs soon (how would I even do that?), the question remains how else to be convinced that keeping the precepts is *always* in my (and everyone else's) best interest.

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/8/17 8:49 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I experimented with the Metta instructions and found those two variations helpful lately.
What both have in common is that I don't repeat the 'may I be happy(/whatever)' phrase, which allows to call up the feeling without the usually accompanying
blocks. That feels quite healing.

First variant: Body-Scan + breathing + Metta
Position: sitting.
Instructions: Do a body-scan from feet to head. Take every body region for one in- and outbreath. With the in-breath speak (i.e. think) "breathing in goodwil
l", with the out-breath "spreading goodwill"
I will spend more time with body regions which have lots of muscles, especially feet and face, which adds relaxation to the practice.

Second variant: Mix Metta with autogenic training
I found this to be especially useful when I was too tired or tense for sitting practice, since it provided both relaxation, recovery and Metta practice.
Position Lying.
Instructions: Do a (coarse) body-scan, with only a few parts (left leg, right leg, left arm, right arm, upper body). For every part do 4 in- and out-breaths.
1st breath: "my [left leg] is getting heavy"
2nd breath: "my [left leg] is getting warm"
3rd and 4th breath: breathing in/spreading goodwill

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/8/17 8:50 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
3 more days of intensive meditation, and a few observations:
-I enter something I would call the 'Metta meditation tunnel'. After some time it's possible to settle to the Metta words.The mind gets calm and puts up little resistance to the instructions. However, the Metta feeling is strangely absent. It's somehow there, but not really in the foreground, and not in an obvious way. It seems obvious that some transformation is happening, but it's not visible. It's very much like walking in a dark cave, with the only guiding string being the words of Metta. I have faith that this is going somewhere and remain mildly curious, but the practice itself is quite unspectacular. Sometimes it seems that the 'emotional configuration' of the mind changes for only a few seconds, as if it is trying out whether it's able to tolerate new configurations.

-After 2 days I thought I found the switch in the mind which connects the words with the feeling of Metta. Suddenly I was able to activate the feeling without reciting the words, as if I had found a shortcut. So I activated the switch as often per second as possible. The mind was then flooded with the Metta-feeling. After a minute or so, the possibility faded. Cool experience. Don't know if it's possible to turn this into a permanent skill somehow.

After those 3 days I stopped practice for 2 days, and the mind would try to revert to its old state, implying that some change had indeed taken place.
I noticed how the possibility of a new change was cause for a lot of worry.
It's a pattern, obviously: Change is both scary and unavoidable.

Other observations:
-I'm noticing a pattern of self-blame which I thought was gone. I guess this is a case harmless reoccurrence of previous patterns due to the mind's stubborn inertia.
-I'm increasingly noticing the anicca-aspect of coarse mind states (lasting hours or days), with the mind running a certain program, such as certain ideas, moods or coping strategies. I will often stop and wonder if I know this state already and reflect how helpful it is. I often end up disillusioned and just feel fed up with most of it.

RE: The practice of Bernd
3/8/17 8:56 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I did a 4-day self-retreat in a special location.
I noticed: it's very hard if not impossible to evade the typical retreat dynamics.
So, 4 days is really not enough to get the very effective, enjoyable, undisturbed 'middle days' Daniel speaks about in MCTB. I doubt that I will repeat the experiment in that same way.

Also I came back from another Metta Retreat with Visu Teoh, where I added 2.5 days right before of solo practice. Again, this seemed very effective and instructive. Here are some notes:

Day -2:
I find a lot of anger which is induced by practicing Metta. When I give in to it, it grows into some violent fantasies. Entertaining.
It's noteworthy that this kind of anger seemed to be not at all about hate or aversion. It's only about protection and strength.

Day -1:
At one point, I side-stepped all the hindrances to Metta for just a second.
I recognized this as the marker for the nearing end of the current Metta cycle. (Which I wasn't even sure is still occurring.)

After that, some new 'non-equilibrium' about the relation of hindrances and Metta took place.

Day 0:
Everything seems a bit new with new possibilities for the mind, but really unfinished.
I have the experience of looking at some thing which I know must be there but I can't see it. Then I look at it again and it's there. wtf?
I feel faith in the practice leaving, my neck hurts, I get a headache and more sadness.
In the evening, the retreat starts.

Day 1:
I have an interview with Visu about my doubts where exactly the practice will lead to. I'm not sure about his response, but his presence is enough to ensure I just continue. The Metta sessions for myself feel useless and a waste of time.
I experiment with different persons and compare how the Metta works for them. This is interesting and might be generally a good idea. Change them every 5 minutes and see what happens.

Later, the mind turned away from everything for a session. Some reflection took place, the equanimity switch was then thrown, and I was suddenly at peace with everything. This sort of concludes the 6-th 'Metta cycle'. The calm stayed until the next day, and felt very healing.

Day 2:

I reflect about the Metta practice process in general and about Thanissaro's "cutting new paths in the mind"-article. I have a lot of gratitude for the practice. Also I'm scared. This practice seems to have a brute-force character compared to more gentle methods (aka Feldenkrais or Focusing). You just do Metta whatever happens and see how it changes the mind, without much consideration of what is there before. I find it scary. Like, really.

I try to play with some different phrasing and add qualifications to certain phrases. I especially wonder about the "may all beings be happy"-phrase which doesn't make sense to me.
Some of the alternated phrasing and reflection about the meaning may be useful to keep the mind with the Metta, when it's otherwise hardly interested in doing so.

There was a Q&A about difficult people. Visu presented several ways to work with those. Completely opposite to Bhante Sujato's instructions, he proposed the following method:
Regardless of your anger towards a person, just send Metta or a wholesome wish to them. Do this as long as it takes, no matter how unpleasant it may be. Eventually, the anger will subside. You may then feel sorry or sad or whatever for the person, but the impetus for the anger won't be there any more.

Day 3:
I try to do anger for difficult persons. I go at all difficult persons I can find. But I surprisingly discover that they're all paper tigers: I thought, I would be overwhelmed with anger, but instead for every person this is what happens:
-some anger is there, but it doesn't grow. The mind doesn't want to go there. Or:
-Initially some anger is there, but it soon vanishes and turns to sadness.
This feels VERY liberating. I feel even more gratitude for the practice than the day before after the equanimity appeared.
Visu said, being angry at someone is like giving him/her a rent-free room in your mind.
Therefore, Metta for these persons serves as a protection for yourself.
I think, this is really valuable.

I try to mix Vipassana (concentration on rise and fall) with Metta to increase concentration. It just confuses me.

Later, Karuna and Mudita are introduced.
I have the impression that Karuna will just make me sad and more unbalanced, and that it may even create cruelty for some persons, which the Visuddhimagga describes as Karuna's "far enemy". I decide to focus on Mudita first, which I may really need. Mudita worked just fine except that there is some conviction that there's really no good reason to have Mudita. This is all foggy and I wonder if I should switch from Metta to Mudita practice for a while.

In the evening, I briefly panick about going back from the retreat with all the unfinished business in "the real world". I suddenly find that I'm able to accept the difficult feeling without pushing it away. The impulse of 'pushing it away' becomes an object (or felt-sens-part, in focusing terminology) itself.

Day 4(the last one):
Upekkha is introduced, and later Meditation on Death (Maranasati).
The latter makes me just sad. The reflection may still be valuable regardless or even just because of that.
Upekkha works much better than when I tried it last time. I conclude that it is a certain ressource that the SE people use.
I will try to cultivate that in certain situations and see if it helps those.
It includes a lot of phrases of reflection but here are the ones which are most often repeated:

May I be calm, peaceful and [I forgot the word, dammit].

I notice that all the words have slightly different flavours. Especially, easy/light-hearted seems to include some joy in it.

Then, retreat is over.
Metta is good stuff, or did I mention that already? It's also profound. There's always more, it seems. Also it develops in ways I can't foresee. I don't even know where exactly it's going. Sometimes stuff (hindrances) seem to come back which I had thought were long gone. Still, the overall change is highly beneficial.
Not really sure if I should switch to Mudita practice for some time. At least, I will try to use it "during the day" more.
The retreat has given me more faith to experiment with the practice and different phrases.
I also noticed a pattern: The start of a "metta cycle" seems to be the most difficult thing. After a while, the mind is more inclined to the practice, and therefore I don't find as many excuses to postpone practice. Thus, much more effort at the beginning of a cycle may be a very good thing. So I should take a few days off now to start the next process, and the rest will naturally follow.
And another side note: I tried to not eat much on this retreat. If I counted energy correctly, I should lost about 2 pounds during that week. The little food intake seemed to give me more energy, and also more time since I wasn't busy eating that long. In the past I was usually worried about eating enough when there's only food served 2 times a day. But actually that idea is pretty ridiculous.

Another reflection: A lot of the Metta process seems to be Vipassana. It seems to be the reflections about the 3 characteristics of the hindrances that arise in response to the Metta phrases, which ultimately flip the equanimity switch, and open up the way for new territory to emerge.

RE: The practice of Bernd
6/28/15 1:52 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Sometimes (in meditation), some (that is, a lot of) anger comes up with an old memory.
Not pushing the memory away and continuing the Metta phrases sometimes leads to this:
lots of anger. Rage. Aggression. I wonder how the situation SHOULD have turned out, and really try to feel the 'new' situation in my body.
The aggression thing seems to help with that greatly, and the pull of the memory is gone, and it doesn't come back.

Other than that, the anger seems to have subsided for now. Also I obviously can't call it up to do anything for me. Wonder if/when it comes back.

Some more integration going on since the last retreat.
But one thing seems to remain uneffected: There's some obvious self-anger that's still in place.
Metta practice changes nothing about it. Maybe some Mudita could help. Guess I'll try 1-2 weeks of serious Mudita-only practice soon, out of curiosity what happens.

On reflection, I noticed how I got much more productive on the retreat, when I actually committed to doing it 24/7.
There's something about commitment which seems even more important than the actual time.
So I wondered what would be a good timeframe for a serious commitment to do the Metta 24/7 in everyday-life.
I guess, half a year is reasonable. Let's do that and then reevaluate.

Also, some reflection on the precepts occurred. (context: "the healing power of the precepts" by Thanissaro)
I was increasingly bothered with the fact that it feels difficult to commit to them completely.
So what I ended up with was that I now commit to the 5 precepts every day for the duration of this day only.
This makes it much less scary.
-It makes me just a bit lighter
-I actually recognize when I fail at keeping a precept. I wonder what is the 'right' reaction to those instances.o

At the moment, I'm managing to stick to a demanding timeschedule with lots of Metta practice in it. 2 hours a day or more seem sufficient to have the Metta going for the rest of the day, without major breaks. I began by using a timer which alarmed me every 20 minutes. Soon I found that I would often already say the phrases, when the timer goes off. I then decided to drop the timer, because the habit seems already sufficiently established.

My impression is that I'm somewhere in the second stage of Metta: After the initial phase where nothing seems to happen, some anger actually shows up.
Trying to finish the current 'Metta cycle' ASAP and then trying out some serious Mudita practice. It feels weird to plan it in such a way, but I would guess that it will be finished within 2-3 weeks.
That said, I wonder what is really the value of those cycles. Is it them, which bring actual progress? Will they become faster or just vanish at some point? Is there anything really new in them, or is the practice I'm currently doing a case of diminishing returns?
noting "intellectualising, doubting, ..."

RE: The practice of Bernd
7/1/15 4:30 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I forgot to mention one remarkable new change since the last cycle:
Sometimes (about 0.3-10 times a day) I routinely repeat Metta phrases for someone, and suddenly I notice "Hey, I'm actually being genuine." So, for some seconds, the practice no longer feels like "faking" it. This is cool.

I'm currently trying to insert more relaxation into my practice because this is chronically missing. Bhante Vimalaramsi with his 6R-approach seems to focus on that. I find all his 6Rs to be a bit confusing, but I'm experimenting with different ways to include the relaxation and re-smile steps into my meditation. So far, this seems promising.

The last days I found myself in a situation in which I hadn't been for some time.
Mental patterns adjust to these situations. It's impressive how the mind always goes back to them even if it wasn't there for a long time. Practicing a bit of Metta in these situations still changes them. Something seems to have changed even without consciously doing that, but it's hard to pinpoint what exactly it is.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/8/17 8:58 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Some notes on practice in the last days:

-last days, heart seemed open, whatever that means. metta was overflowing, and seemed to appear in new situations, with new intensity. This seems to be the joyful side of progres
More and more often I noticed that the Metta I was sending to random people felt actually genuine.
Sometimes I would suddenly reflect along the lines of "hey, I'm sending Metta to this random dude, and its actually wonderful that I'm doing that. How wonder
ful would it be if he, too, was sending Metta to me right now. Oh, how much would that make the world a nicer place to live in."
Yesterday, heart was largely closed for one day, with the predominant experience being tension and constriction. My favourite coping strategy on this is stopping any meditation and consuming ridiculous amounts of chocolate. (I think I really need to find another coping behaviour since chocolate is finite).
Now it seems more open again,
I notice that some more long-held weird anger towards some persons seems to be changing. Looks good I guess.

-I often noticed a weird behaviour, that saying a Metta phrase for someone random person around was followed by some sort of self blame.
I tried to feel into the compassionate aspect of that behaviour, and what it wanted to do for me. It seemed about safety, but from the outside it seemed also
 quite ridiculous.
I then used Thanissaro's instruction to just insert the question "is this behaviour really necessary?".
After some days, the thing ceased to appear in the same fashion. But I think, there's still something left, maybe a lot.

-After some experimenting, I currently use this 'formal' method:
Use either one phrase (May I be happy) or Visu's 5 phrases. When I notice that I'm tense or that I'm distracted and have lost focus on the words, I do this:
1) say 'letting go'. This entails some relaxation and usually the abandoning of the distraction
2) reestablish a slight smile and keep it.
This seems to work, i.e. not distract me from the Metta itself too much, and it brings a lot of relaxation into the meditation which was really needed.

I often wonder about the relation between Focusing and Metta. Those seem like 2 distinct practices, but with some similarities.
Sometimes I try to integrate Focusing into the Metta.
That means, after some time of saying the words, I ask some of the questions
"How does the Metta feel in my body?"
"How does everything around the Metta feel in my body?"
"Is it true that I'm completely at peace with the Metta in my body?"
Usually I find some bodily reaction, and get some sort of felt sense.
But after that, doing both things at once seems to screw up everything, i.e. I just get confused and lost.
Don't know what to make of this right now.                                                                                                                                                           

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
7/19/15 8:27 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
The 7th cycle of Metta ended up at equanimity (stage 5 in my own map) yesterday.

Some things which were most obvious in the past 2 weeks:
-Using the 'letting go'-step led to higher concentration, which led to some automatic insertion of Vipassana elements into the practice. It felt a bit like the first few minutes of insight practice after a longer break, with the sense of the center doing weird things.
-When I try to increase effort, some aggression/anger enters. This happens for days. I try different strategies to see why it's there and whether it's actually wholesome. This seemingly doesn't go anywhere. Then, it's gone.
-There's a lot of suffering everywhere. Not only in my own mind, but also in other people's stories, faces, voices... There was no deliberate intention to look at this, it just became obvious. I'm at the verge of tears quite often.
-I see, again and again, some unresolved mental patterns aka 'stuff'. Their suffering, impermanence and not-self aspects become increasingly clear. I then feel somewhat freer from them.
-For some hours, I'm faced with some unclear feelings which regularly show up. It seems, they always become obvious towards the end of Metta stage 2. Although those things themselves don't get resolved right there, the felt sense around them (or of the background?) seems different with every Metta cycle.
-Very cool: I can now relate to why people sometimes talk about 'opening the heart'. The compassion for the suffering which is allowed to get into contact with the heart in combination with the bodily feeling of relaxation in the chest area leads to this idiom, I guess. Also, this happens in cycles. It opens and closes every few days so far.
-Some more unrest is gone. But not all. I don't know how to measure if this is only a temporary change.
-Once I firmly decided that I would be doing Metta all day, this was surprisingly easy. This may have helped in shortening the needed time for this cycle to 6 weeks (usually around 12 weeks in the past.), with hardly any retreat time. The danger may be that Metta running on Auto-pilot often seems to have a lack of effort.

Next, it might be a good idea to get a grip on the other 3 brahmaviharas. I have no doubt that continued Metta practice would lead to more results, but I might be missing out on some balance. See also this thread:

I read some pages (from googlebooks) from Sharon Salzberg's "Revolutionary Art of Happiness". This quote from pp.166 may be relevant:
"Compassion is an ally, which mutually complements Mudita. Just as Mudita reminds us of joy when we are lost in sorrow, compassion reminds us of pain when we are lost in denial. Compassion balances sympathetic joy and keeps it from degenerating into sentimentality or ignorant optimism. Mudita keeps compassion from degenerating into brooding over the enormous breadth, depth, and duration of suffering in the world. It gives solace to the compassionate heart so that we do not feel flooded or overwhelmed by pain. Compassion guards Mudita and Mudita guards compassion. Together in their complementary ways the two keep us from building barriers behind which we confine ourselves to experiencing only a narrow segment of life. And because Mudita energizes us, it also helps compassion to be active. We can take the joy of Mudita and use it to help translate our inner experience of compassion into an outward act of service in the world."
It seems to me that for balance I now need to focus on Mudita. On the other hand, Mudita - the few times I tried it - always seemed to come easily to me, without too many hindrances.

So my practice for the next 2 weeks or so will be something like this:
-Do one hour of Metta in the morning.
-Dedicate the rest of the day (At least one sitting and then informal practice whenever I remember) to Mudita.
I will start out with Visu Teoh's instructions:
"In formal meditation, we sit and keep mentally repeating the phrases: “I rejoice. I’m happy.” Skilful and supportive additions are the phrases: “I’m grateful. I’m content.”


As you mentally recite, “I rejoice. I’m happy. I’m grateful. I’m content,” think of something to rejoice over or feel happy about or be grateful for in your life.


It’s interesting and amazing how, when you apply your mind to think about something to rejoice over or be grateful for, lots of things and ideas will come to your mind, things that you normally would not think about or things that you have taken for granted."

After that, I will re-evaluate.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
7/20/15 10:51 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
~~-Once I firmly decided that I would be doing Metta all day, this was surprisingly easy. This may have helped in shortening the needed time for this cycle to 6 weeks (usually around 12 weeks in the past.), with hardly any retreat time.

Bernd, I am really curious about this.  You do the practice (whatever that consists of) while walking around/doing tasks, etc.?  You are able to do it continuously?  This is how I have done vipassana.  If it is possible for Metta, then it could work for me.

How long did it take you to really start digging in with daily-life metta (I guess I might be asking: how many days or weeks of daily life practice did it take for the phrasings to strongly connect with emotions in the body)?  This may not be a simple question.

Thanks for your answers. 

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
7/20/15 6:17 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah S:
~~-Once I firmly decided that I would be doing Metta all day, this was surprisingly easy. This may have helped in shortening the needed time for this cycle to 6 weeks (usually around 12 weeks in the past.), with hardly any retreat time.

Bernd, I am really curious about this.
Cool questions, Noah. I thought, I had answered all of those implicitly, but obviously that's not the case.
I guess that is the same experience that Daniel's been having since publishing MCTB1.

  You do the practice (whatever that consists of) while walking around/doing tasks, etc.?
The practice is repeating the phrases. In formal sitting, I add some body awareness (heart area, body scan, whole body, like that). Outside of formal sitting, I often forget about the body awareness, but I guess it would be a good idea to pay more attention to that. Depending on the task at hand this may be more or less possible.
Repeating the phrases is nearly always possible. Unless, obviously, the mind is engaged with reading, thinking, solving differential equations or interpreting medieval poetry.
  You are able to do it continuously?
No. There are lots of gaps in it.
I have no reliable way to measure how often I really come back to them, but I think mostly the longest breaks are just a few minutes. Except for the above exceptions. Also, the determination and perceived urgency changes from day to day, and so does the amount of continuity.
I often lose the Metta phrases after a few repetitions, but they will soon come back to my mind. In fact, I often notice that the Metta phrases are running on autopilot, and use that as a cue to put some effort and intention behind them.
I don't think that the continuity is important. I think that frequently coming back to them is important.

I guess my implicit working model is this:
My task is to collect Metta-points.
Every cycle needs 1.000.000 Metta-points for completion.
Every time I repeat a Metta phrase, that's one point.
Getting the effort right and paying attention to body sensations multiplies that by 2-5.
Doing it during a retreat or a longer session multiplies that again by 2, due to higher concentration.
This model probably lacks important factors (such as mindfulness of the hindrances, appropriateness of the current Metta phrase), but at least is good enough to keep me motivated.
  This is how I have done vipassana.  If it is possible for Metta, then it could work for me.
I guess, with Metta the same continuity is possible. I find it actually easier than Vipassana because you can always use the same phrase, while Vipassana requires choosing the right 'note' (or none at all, which seems even harder).

Here are some things that helped me build continuity:
-Really, really decide that you are doing this practice the whole day. Put all your faith in it and in your capabilities.
-Renew this decision every day.
-Have at least 1 hour of Metta practice. This helps to set it on autopilot, which serves as a reminder.
-Have a watch. Let it ring every 30 minutes. Then say twenty repetitions of "May I be happy"
-Establish a trigger system, i.e. let frequent events remind you of the Metta phrases. (I learned this idea from Visu Teoh.)
Examples: think of/see people/beings -> send Metta to them. Change posture -> repeat Metta phrase. Notice anger -> repeat Metta phrase.

How long did it take you to really start digging in with daily-life metta (I guess I might be asking: how many days or weeks of daily life practice did it take for the phrasings to strongly connect with emotions in the body)?  This may not be a simple question.
Seems like a reasonable question, but it just doesn't work that way, at least for me.
Getting the Metta feeling reliably needed just a few days in my first retreat. This skill is available in daily life very fast.
BUT it's in no way a linear development.
That means it changes quite frequently, often within minutes.
Or those changes happen with smaller frequency: Sometimes I feel that my heart is 'open' for 2 or 3 days in a row. Then it's closed again for some days.
However: When I sit down, close my eyes and really pay attention, I can almost always get some connection from the Metta phrases to at least a very weak emotional/bodily feeling. It seems to be built into the phrase, even if no broader Metta feeling comes up.
These observations hold true for both formal sitting and 'daily life practice'.
I have come to the conclusion that 'no connection to emotions in the body' does not mean that the practice has no effect, just as the Dark Night is not a sign of 'your meditation sucks'. It's just part of the process.

Thanks for your answers. 
You're most welcome. I guess, I even learned about my own thoughts about the process lol.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
7/22/15 6:39 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I tried to shift my practice emphasis on Mudita, but the results made me overthink my strategy.
Here's what happened:

Doing Mudita 24/7 wasn't hard. Obviously, the ability of frequently recalling my commitment transferred from Metta without problems.
In the beginning, there was only a little joy, but at the same time I became very sad. Some part of me is sad to the point of wanting to die. I experienced this very intensely about 5 months ago, and it came back for a day, only slightly soothed.
I assume that it is probably possible to just blast through all those Mudita-specific hindrances, just as I did with Metta. But I don't think it's effective at all.

Another important observation: Often, Mudita just doesn't seem suitable. I can still force the mind to do it, but it seems much more inclined to do Metta instead. It MIGHT be a good idea to just let it go there in this case.

Even more obvious: Doing Mudita often reminds me of the contrary aspect. I direct the mind to a person and recollect their blessings. But then I soon remember their difficulties and suffering. And then it seems natural to let the mind develop the Karuna aspect right there, instead of rigidly staying with Mudita.

While getting the Mudita feeling isn't more difficult than getting the Metta feeling, having the mind concentrated around Mudita seems much more tricky.
The reason is: with Metta it is easy to just repeat the phrases and stay there.
But Mudita contains some deliberate reflection about people's blessings, and this sort of reflection very easily and very often leads to the mind's thought stream wandering off in random directions.
I have no idea yet how to fix that. Maybe a systematic approach is helpful to eliminate wandering, or all reflection should be abandoned after a short inital period.

Apart from all that, some reflection occurred about the nature of some sort of anger.
So far I assumed that Metta will ultimately take care of anger and balance that. But some sort of anger seems related to things not working out right and people keeping their unskillful behaviour.
If this sort of anger increases rather than diminishes in response to the Metta practice, then it might mean that the suitable practice here is actually Upekkha, i.e. Equanimity.

Taking all those observations into account, I conclude the following:
It's ok to use Metta as the basic practice because it is the most universally applicable.
Metta also makes Mudita and Karuna very easy.
Mudita begs the development of Karuna.
Upekkha is ultimately also needed, and I see no reason to delay its systematic development.
Naturally, this layout for a longer meditation session comes to mind:
-45 minutes of Metta
-10  minutes of Mudita
-10 minutes of Karuna
-10 minutes (or how long feels good) for Upekkha
all in all 1:15h.

In order to make Mudita and Karuna more common, it might be a good idea to establish a trigger system for those, too.
The obvious trigger system for Karuna is seeing myself or anyone else suffering. Good, so that's settled.
What about Mudita?

I suspect that the following things might work for me:
-After a session, rejoice about the possibility to have done it and about the effort I used.
-Whenever someone does me (or s.o. else) a favour.
-As an afterthought to Metta, if a bit more time is available. Especially with benefactors and friends.
-Something ends up good unexpectedly.
-before and after meals.
-before going to sleep and after waking up.
-encountering something nice.
-...what else?

Here are phrases for Upekkha, from Visu and Salzberg:
“May I be equanimous.”
“May I be peaceful.”
“May I be calm.”

“I am open, accepting, balanced and peaceful.”
“Upekkha, Upekkha, Equanimity, Equanimity.”
“I am cool, calm, peaceful, easy, relaxed.”

“May I be equanimous at the appropriate times.”
“May I see the rise and fall of things with equanimity.”
“May I be equanimous towards the eight worldly conditions.”
“May I walk evenly over the uneven.”
“May I be at peace with myself and the world.”

“All beings are owners of their kamma.”
“We are owners of our kamma.”
“I am owner of my kamma.”
“I am owner of my kamma, heir of my kamma, born of my kamma, related to my kamma, and have kamma as my true refuge.”


“May we all accept things as they are.”
“May we be undisturbed by the comings and goings of events.”
“I will care for you but cannot keep you from suffering.”
“I wish you happiness but cannot make your choices for you.”

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
7/22/15 9:42 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Good points on the all day metta practice.  Thx again. 

Cool to hear you starting up with mudita as well.  Definitely somewhat uncharted (or less charted) territory in terms of taking a close and pragmatic eye to these practices.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
7/27/15 8:52 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
When I tried to put my "all 4 BVs in one session" plan into practice, I noticed that I had little idea what I would be doing in the Karuna-part.
Therefore I reread the respective writings of Visu, Salzberg, Daniel and some others.
I realized that although all of those are pretty clear, I still have little imagination of what it means in practice.
So I continued to search and stumbled upon the less traditional presentations of Kristin Neff and Tara Brach.
Kristin Neff explains compassion this way:
In whichever way you do it, compassion has those 3 elements:
-common humanity
I guess I get the idea about mindfulness. Also, all the Metta-practice should have given me some sort of self-kindness. But what about the middle factor, common humanity?

I somehow missed that. When I attempted to do Karuna, I always noticed some sort of background cruelty towards suffering people BECAUSE of their suffering. As a result of reflecting upon this explanation of compassion, I realized somehow which places in myself needed compassion, and I realized how the cruelty was partially an effect of not understanding how universal the suffering really is.

Rereading this paragraph I realize I still lack suitable words to describe what really happened.

Regardless, this seemed to be a huge insight for me, tension in my body was released, I felt very grateful and compassionate. The cruelty was gone, and compassion would be there automatically for anything. I realized that compassion for the ever-present "inner critic voice" was just as needed. I was very agitated for 3 full days. At some instances, I was too agitated to even formulate a straight sentence.

Then, it cooled down. Some transformation seems to be permanent. There's some baseline of compassion that was entirely missing before, without me intending to evoke it. However, some of the bodily tension is back. But it's less, my whole body feels a bit different and somewhat lighter. Sometimes I have the idea of having transformed into a feather blanket. All of this seems very promising.

I wonder, which factors exactly made this shift possible, and if less Metta practice would have been sufficient to induce this change. I can't think of a reasonable way to find out.

I've since read Tara Brach's book about radical acceptance. Though it seems just a bit new-age/mushroomy in very few instances, on the whole my first impression is that it's brilliant and mostly spot-on, especially the first 8 of 12 chapters. I might write more about it after trying out some of the exercises.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/9/17 8:38 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Most of the latest shift seemed to revert, unto the point where I wasn't sure if anything had changed at all. It left me with both confusion and faith. After a month of less-than-diligent on-and-off practice I decided to just go on a solo retreat to cut out distractions. I just came back. Before I go into the details, here are 2 practices from Tara Brach's book with which I experimented. The first one I liked just as an alternative relaxation technique at the start of the meditation. The second one I took and merged with my usual practice instructions. This was totally game-changing.


The compassionate Buddha is often seen in statues and pictures with a slight smile as he embraces the
ten thousand joys and sorrows. When we meditate with the spirit of a smile, we awaken our natural
capacity for unconditional friendliness.
Sitting comfortably, close your eyes and let the natural rhythm of the breath help you to relax. Take a few
moments to let go of obvious places of tightness and tension. Now, listening to sounds and becoming
aware of the space around you, allow the curved image of a smile to appear in your mind. Notice how
gentleness, kindness, openness and ease arise with the idea of a smile. Sense the curved relaxed smile fill
your mind and extend outward into space.
Now imagine a smile at the corner of both eyes and feel the sensations that arise there. Allow your brow
to be smooth, the flesh around your eyes to be soft and relaxed. You might sense your eyes floating gently
as in a pool of warm water. Continue to soften and let go through the whole area around the eyes. Can
you perceive a relaxed brightness there?
Now bring a small but real smile to your lips—the half-smile of the Buddha—and allow the feeling to relax
the muscles of your face. Let the jaw be relaxed and loose, and let the tip of the tongue lightly touch the
roof of the mouth. Feel now how the eyes are smiling . . . the mouth is smiling . . .
Bring the image of a smile to your throat and notice what happens. There might be a relaxing and opening.
If there is tightness allow it to be held in the sense of the smile. Feel again the corners of your eyes smiling,
your mouth smiling, your throat smiling.
Let the smile drift down into your chest. Imagine the shape and feeling of a smile spreading through the
area of your heart. Whatever feelings might be there, allow them to float in the openness and kindness of
a smile. Continuing to relax, sense the smile in your heart sending ripples of ease throughout your body
through the shoulders, along the arms and down into the torso and legs. Can you feel the openness and
vibrancy of a smile at the navel, the genitals, the base of the spine?
Allow yourself to rest in the spacious and kind awareness that is engendered by a smile. When thoughts,
sensations or emotions arise, can you sense how they are held with unconditional friendliness? If your mind
wanders or you find yourself tightening, you can gently reestablish the smile in your mind, eyes, mouth and


Guided Meditation: the Power of Yes

Sitting quietly, close your eyes and take a few full breaths. Bring to mind a current situation that elicits a
reaction of anger, fear or grief. It may be a rift with your partner, the loss of a loved one, a power struggle
with your child, a chronic illness, a hurtful behavior that you now regret. The more fully you get in touch
with the charged essence of the story, the more readily you can access the feelings in your heart and
throughout your body. What is it about this situation that provokes the strongest feelings? You might see a
particular scene in your mind, hear words that were spoken, recognize a belief you hold about how this
situation reflects on you or what it means for your future. Be especially aware of the feelings in your
stomach, chest and throat.
In order to see firsthand what happens when you resist experience, begin by experimenting with saying no.
As you connect with the pain you feel in the situation you have chosen, mentally direct a stream of no at
the feelings. No to the unpleasantness of fear, anger, shame or grief. Let the word carry the energy of no
rejecting, pushing away what you are experiencing. As you say no, notice what this resistance feels like in
your body. Do you feel tightness, pressure? What happens to the painful feelings as you say no? What
happens to your heart? Imagine what your life would be like if, for the next hours, weeks and months, you
continued to move through the world with the thoughts and feelings of no.
Take a few deep breaths and let go by relaxing through the body, opening your eyes or shifting your
posture a bit. Now take a few moments to call to mind again the painful situation you’d previously chosen,
remembering the images, words, beliefs and feelings connected with it. This time let yourself be the
Buddha under the bodhi tree, the Buddha inviting Mara to tea. Direct a stream of the word yes at your
experience. Agree to the experience with yes. Let the feelings float, held in the environment of yes. Even if
there are waves of no—fear or anger that arise with the painful situation or even from doing this exercis
—that’s okay. Let these natural reactions be received in the larger field of yes. Yes to the pain. Yes to the
parts of us that want the pain to go away. Yes to whatever thoughts or feelings arise. Notice your
experience as you say yes. Is there softening, opening and movement in your body? Is there more space and
openness in your mind? What happens to the unpleasantness as you say yes? Does it get more intense?
Does it become more diffuse? What happens to your heart as you say yes? What would your experience be
in the hours, weeks and months to come, if you could bring the spirit of yes to the inevitable challenges
and sorrows of life?
Continue to sit now, releasing thoughts and resting in an alert, relaxed awareness. Let your intention be to
say a gentle YES to whatever sensations, emotions, sounds or images may arise in your awareness.

Here is what I did with the 'Yes'-meditation after some experimentation: I kept the Metta phrases, but everytime some unclear or unpleasant feeling (anger, worry, other weird things) came up, I would in my mind say "Yes, hello, friend [insert here whatever it is], I rejoice that you're here and invite you into my heart" or some alternative sentence such as "I accept you completely", "I trust you" or whatever came to my mind.
Some especially useful sentences I extracted from Focusing instructions, such as "I try to feel how it is from your perspective", "No wonder that you feel like that" or "I wonder how you want to help me".

It needed some hours (or days? memory is unreliable) for this to have any visible effect. After that it changed everything. Difficult emotional things started to open up just a little bit, would shift, would reveal to have more meaning to them. No 'solutions' showed up, but everything is different. On the last full day anger and worry subsided a bit and transformed to something else more widespread, temporarily releasing bodily tension. I'm still feeling fundamentally relieved, although this is still clearly only a beginning.

Some interesting observations in this process:
-There is a lot of doubt. Sometimes. The reactions to this kind of 'active accepting' change all the time, just like all meditation phenomena.
-Anyway, accepting everything is key, and that includes the doubt. In a way, this is similar to the 'dumb nature' of noting.
-Here, this is different to 'dumb noting': It makes a difference, what words are used. Try to feel the thing in different areas "I invite you into my heart/stomach/upper body/whole body/whatever" or use different sentences "I rejoice that you're here" isn't always adequate. Use different words, and implicitely another intention is there, just as it is hard to replace the Metta phrases with "may everybody be brutally killed by comet strikes this evening" and still carry on Metta practice, here also the language is just as important.
-Even more interesting: it often makes a difference if I say "Yes, hello, friend anger" or "Yes, hello, friend something that is currently angry". In the first case, that thing often feels maybe reduced. In the second case it is much more appreciated and it is more obvious that there is some meaning and compassion(!) behind the anger. Then it opens up a bit immediately.

Here some chronological notes:
Day 0: nothing interesting.
Day 1: I listen again and again to that voice in my head which is hurling insults at me. This is painful. I throw "is this true?" questions into my mind, and observe that this reduces their power just a bit. In response to the Metta, there is some sudden bodily relaxation. I go without knee pains for the rest of the day.
Day 2: Not much happens here. As a response to the Metta, I often just let my upper body hang down.
Day 3: I start my experiments with the "yes hello friend X"-method.
I also start a second experiment: I notice that I can hardly focus on the phrases themselves, but that it is very easy for me to see the phrases, i.e. I can see the actual letters. (I knew I have this skill, but never applied it to meditation.) Then I decided to just focus on a visualization of the phrases. As a result, the mind churned out lots of weird fantasies involving these phrases. Meditation got very joyful. I remember conjuring a protecting person who guarded my swimming pool, which I filled with warm, wet, red/violet/blue Metta phrases. I would swim in the pool, and feel how the phrases actually caress me. That is, the lower side of the letters touch my skin. A circle considering of a Metta phrase forms, and I jump right through it. This is FUN. Finally, some woman appears in the pool. She consists entirely of Metta phrases, and initiates sex with me.  dafuq mind, whats up with you LOL? I'm not complaining though. Her touch felt fantastic.

Day 4: The joy is over. The Metta gets more mechanical. I visualize myself as I sit in the hall, and drop the phrases on the ground. The mind produces horrifying pictures. Lots of dark clouds appear over my head. A big boot comes out of the sky, and destroys both me and the meditation hall. I feel like I'm indeed trapped in a nightmare. I visualize myself again and again, and also try to intentionally change the images, for example equipping myself with some defence system, but it doesn't help. Whatever I come up with is instantly crushed by the big foot, LOL. It comes in all kinds of forms. This is better than a video game on steroids, but without cheats.

A recurring thought "I cannot do this alone" comes up. I ask for help, but don't know to whom. I just hope there is something/someone able to help me. After some of those sittings, I feel like my nervous system is being fried. I lie on the floor, and because the hall is empty, I just roll through the entire hall to get some grounding. It ends with me crashing against a pillar.
In the evening, I can hardly fall asleep. I try to somehow feel connected to someone because I remember my thought of "I cannot do this alone." I walk around in the hall at midnight and marvel at the weird tibetan works of art everywhere. I intentionally reflect on how much work they put in these detailed things. I reflect on how much love went into these works, and how I'm basically part of the same tradition. I reflect that these works were basically created for me.

Day 5: I sleep almost 10 hours and wake up after a very disturbing dream containing relatives arising from the dead after undergoing face surgery, group sex orgies, incest, wheelchair races, liquid chocolates and cigarettes. Seriously mind, what the fuck? I hope I'll never take up dream analysis.

I feel a bit better, but since the place is basically empty, I'm still somewhat scared. I try to experience just "the edge of the feeling". That helps a lot.

I try to introduce more gentleness into the meditation. After some time, some vague feeling-meaning-whatever-thing comes up, and is visibly angry that I've been neglecting it so long. I don't find out what it actually is.

I repeatedly make an intention to "say yes to life", but very suddenly it seems completely meaningless and/or misguided. On the next day, I will diagnose this as the 'turning away'-Stage. Some confused calm/equanimity sets in after that. The 8-th cycle of Metta has ended. I was taken by surprise because of the intensity of all the other things, and I just didn't expect it yet.

Day 6: In the library, I read in some book that "each Brahamvihara contains the other 3". After some reflection, it occurred to me that the map of Metta I drew up was just that: A progression from Metta->Mudita->Karuna->Upekkha. Strange that I didn't view it in this way before.

I visualize the Metta phrases, and now the danger is different. It's no more external, instead the Metta phrase themselves attack me. Instead of stroking me, they are sharp like knives, and they cut my skin open.

Soon, I get angry. Which means that some force comes up which is very angry and has lots of rage. I wonder if this is a good thing and try to encourage it. After some experimentation I find myself repeating phrases along the lines of "May I be able to viciously defend myself against violations of my boundaries. May I be able to destroy my enemies if necessary. May I be able to kill without hesitation." I wondered what the statue in front of me would think if it could read my thoughts.

Day 7: I'm disoriented, unmotivated and don't really know what to do now. Lots of reflection goes on automatically about the 3Cs, as I had observed a lot of suffering the past days. This Vipassana-aspect seems to be built into the Metta practice.

Day 8: At first, everything is boring. After some time, the background feeling gets more and more uncomfortable.
Suddenly it is gone, and then reappears, but transformed into something else entirely. Some vague, black, very unclear thing. According to Avi Craimer's description somewhere else, it might have been shame. After that, lots of bodily tension were gone. I felt much better and still do.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
8/28/15 6:58 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.

         You may enjoy Analayo's (sp.?) new book "Emptiness and Compassion in Early Buddhism". It is available now as an ebook and is about all of the brahma viharas/cultivating them for their own sake and as deep concentration mechanisms and then using that cultivation to develop insight into emptiness and awakening. I don't read dharma books anymore but I am finding this one very useful practically as there are lots of practice directions as well as clarifications into the usefulness of the brahma viharas. I imagine you will too.-Bill

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
8/28/15 9:26 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Ah, dude, that is totally fucked up! Just kidding, but it’s a little messed up, lol.  Solo retreats have their challenges.

"Anyway, accepting everything is key...".  The whole teaching in 5 words.

Good report.  Thanks for sharing.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/9/17 5:07 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I went on another retreat, first self-guided, then with guidance under Ven. Dhammadipa and Sister Dhammarama.
Here are some notes:

I continue with my Metta/Active Acceptance Dual practice which I described before.

Chronological Notes
Day 0: I arrive. My sleep rhythm is somewhat fucked up. I fall asleep at 7:30PM accidentally, only to wake up at 11PM. Whatever.

Day 1: I should stop eating cake. Lots of nausea. lol.
I start the Metta, but I'm hardly interested. Nothing is resonating with the phrases.
I get the feeling that I'm not actually doing anything.
Pieces of emotional stuff (I'll call those 'Parts' with capital P) come settling down in my body. This is nice.
Sometimes, upon reciting a Metta phrase, a short flash of shame(?) appears, only for a moment.

Day 2: It starts out neutral, but in the course of the day, the Metta feeling grows stronger. Sometimes I almost start to cry, without any emotion visible. Some Part appears which seems to be somewhat cynical. Although not seeming like an unknown thing, this was new. It also didn't appear very clear, so maybe it's still afraid to really come out.

I do an experiment: I change the language from disassociating, i.e. "something in me" to " I am sad. First, this seems to go somwhere, but then it just confuses me and I soon drop it.

I do another experiment of splitting unrest into two layers: the one I can see, and the rest. Then I focus on the one I can see. This gets me more relaxed.

I get a bit nervous, because things aren't really exciting so far. "Either something happens now, or this is gonna be a really boring report."

Later I get to have some real compassion for difficult aspects of my situation. Like, you know, in a genuine way. It doesn't last long and doesn't go deeper, but I have the impression that something might really be there. I will go back to this memory by the end of the retreat.

Sometimes there is shaking of the whole upper body. Usually, this doesn't go anywhere, but this time it's different. The resistance seems to be gone, and the shaking just seems to exhaust its fuel and stops after some seconds.

Day 3: Energy and Enthusiasm increase. At the same time, doubt increases, along the lines of "I've seen all these movements of the mind so often, but does it really ever lead anywhere???"

I get better and better at integrating the Parts. However, in the breaks I seem to slide back. Is this just a behaviour which takes a long time to make second nature? I remember Thanissaro's "Cutting New Paths in the mind" and maybe its logic applies here.
The habit of accepting things is tricky. What even happens here? Sometimes, some weird thing between acceptance and non-acceptance happens, and shows in the mind for only a split-second. I can't even think about what happens there. It seems as if I'm observing an aspect of the mind working which shouldn't be visible for me. This sentence reads as confusing as the situation was for me. I marvel about how contents of the mind usually make sense. Goddammit, LOL what am I even trying to say here?

Then I try to accept some Restlessness-Part. But it doesn't work. There is real resistance here. Then, suddenly, some reflection occurs just by itself: I reflect about how the worry never hurt me, how it used to be much more intense in the past without ever hurting me, and somehow I come to the conclusion that indeed, I can accept it without qualification. At first it's a bit like a firework lights up in my mind, but then it's suddenly all gone. In fact, I wonder where it went. The next sitting goes very quiet. It's like things are still there, but they're stuffed in sealed boxes. After some time, someone opens and closes the door loudly, and I'm startled. After that, the quiet is gone. I repeat the Metta phrases, visualizing myself sitting there. Then, Rage rises and destroys the meditation hall. Cool.

In the next sitting, I'm confused about worry and its acceptance. Suddenly there is a drop into a Focusing state, completely unexpected. It's about the "Hanging-Down"-Part, that's reliably with me. It moves a bit, and is somehow about being not-wanted or pushed away. Some reflection occurs about why this would be, if it was different if the people in the scenario were swapped, and what I could do about it. I call an ideal angel person (same as usual) to hold me, and get angry. I ask the person to stay. Soon, the state ends, and it feels right to end the sitting. I stand up, and my whole body feels different and a bit weird. Other than that, the experience was quite relieving, as the Focusing process basically always is. The tension in my whole body is gone. I can do walking meditation in this body-state. This is good.

I get to work in the garden. I notice that my life is ok again. Second time in a week since 3 years or something. Guess this is a good sign.

Next, uncomfortable things appear. What is this? Is this connected to shame? It seems new. Accepting this stuff isn't easy. I observe that the "Active-acceptance"-practice is a bit like noting. To paraphrase Daniel: Just do it, and let God sort it out. Often it's confusing, I don't really understand what I'm doing, or it gets recursive(Accept the [Non-]Acceptance), or I get doubt about whether I'm actually doing it at all. I put faith in myself that it will eventually work out and just continue.

The evening is wasted. The uncomfortable Parts get me to do avoidance actions and I end up skimming useless books in the library.

Day 4:  Parts get more and more uncomfortable. That Part which wants to change other Parts gets more subtle, but also more slow and seemingly opens up a bit. Also I get some nausea afterwards.

Later I observe the Part that some people call "inner critic", which I find a bit silly. I reflect if Mudita might be an appropriate to 'counter' it and get it to open up a bit more. Reflecting about that, I get a bit more joyful, until it feels right to actually do some Mudita. I then switch to Mudita for some time. Soon, suffering creeps in. The impetus to do Mudita is gone, and I switch back to Metta. Concerning Acceptance and the Part which doesn't want Acceptance, this feels like an insoluble paradox with the intention to drive me mad. At the end of the sitting, I open my eyes and find that a deer is standing right beside the meditation hall and staring at me. dafuq?

There is worry, and I try to accept that. This becomes a battle. A battle which adds additional tension. I realize that tension isn't what's needed and I wonder "Bro, you already decided to accept all that. Alea iacta est. What are you even thinking about?" Then, the tension drops. All the different Parts seem to organize themselves in a different way. (Note that this always happens towards the end of a Metta cycle.) Soon, on a more subtle level, new resistance shows up. When it fades, street-fighter like visions appear. Shaking happens, and it fades out. Whatever mind, whatever.

Everything seems much lighter. When I repeat the Metta phrases and visualize myself sitting here at the same time, I'm still stomped by some giant foot, but on contrast to the last retreat it doesn't bother me much. Every time I repeat a Metta phrase, it seems that this touches a place of hurt. In subtle ways, all the Parts continue to reorganize themselves/their relations. Can't even put this in words, but it seems real.

The retreat is supposed to start today. Some people arrive. The mind gets all agitated. I try to cool it down by prolonging the outbreath. Not that effective.

(I left early and will probably embarass myself here for ranting quite a bit. I hope this generates not too much bad Karma, but if we don't talk also about those experiences, what is this place even worth?)
There is a talk in the evening. Dhammadipa is a meditation master ordained in both Theravada (Pa Auk Sayadaw) and Mahayana (?) traditions. After just a few sentences I was sure that the guy knows his stuff extremely well. About half into the talk I thought "This is gonna be useless. I want to quit." I get very angry for no particular reason. He talks a lot about Mahayana stuff. Something about emptiness and mental objects, 5 senses, shamatha, inner signs and whatever. He often says "Understanding this clearly is very important." Yeah, I get it, you're really enlightened and enlightenment is really great, but so what? Tell me something new and drop that Zen-like intentionally-paradoxic bullshit talk already because I can't stand it. (Great how meditation makes me so thoroughly equanimous, you see.) Other than that, the talk is well-structured and certainly a good introduction to his way of teaching. But this seems not suited to my situation.
Later, I give in to food cravings and eat cake. lol. Tasty and unnecessary and of course a waste of precious retreat time. Then again, I was really hungry.

Day 5: I wake up 2 hours before the morning Gong and go for a walk in the dark, then insert an additional hour of sitting meditation. Where does all the Desire-for-Deliverance-like zeal suddenly come from? I want to scream at everyone that they be not that lazy and practice more. I want to write random comments on the internet containing lots of swear words. After the Qi-Gong I feel dizziness and nausea. I hurry the breakfast and manage to insert a 20 minute sit into the thereby newly-created timeslot. There seems some Part being hurt. I try to let everything heal in an ocean of Metta.

Later there's a guided meditation including a relaxation phase at the beginning. I try the alternative Metta phrases (will describe later) that Bhante Dhammadipa recommended. They make me sad, and I nearly start crying. It is very hard to even remember the phrases. I frequently get stuck after just a few words. I start to doubt the value of everything I've done here so far. At that time, I attribute those effects mainly to the phrases themselves, but later I realize that they're mainly effects of the Metta cycle-stage.

The evening lecture: Everything feels darker and darker. I really want to quit. Suddenly I realize that I'm okay with everything. Ah, wait. Equanimity. I get it, lol. How could the process trick me again? I LOL very loudly, but only in my mind.

Day 6: In the morning, there's Qi-Gong. This time, I don't feel dizzy, but even more nausea. Later in the morning, I have an interview. I already suspect that I'm not going to stay, but want to give the teacher one more chance. In the lecture on the day before, there was lots of talk about "In Shamatha there are no problems. Clarity and Upekhsa are good. Brashrapdi (in Pali: Passadi) is good." When someone asked what I thought was a straightforward question, he got the reply "That's your problem. Because you separate between [insert some lofty words here]. Ah, I get it. Separating is bad, and not separating somehow solves all your questions. I guess, it will be really hard to get some practical, clear advice from that guy, no matter how much enlightenment he's had for breakfast.

So, the interview:
[removed out of respect for the teacher.]

The evening talk is quite interesting; he explains the Metta Sutta in detail. Actually he needs 2 hours to only explain one third of it. The following lectures will be about the rest. I decide that, though interesting, this is not relevant for my current practice. (These days I tend to think that common sense is much more helpful than reading Buddhist scriptures. Unfortunately, people often lose common sense when dealing with Buddhism which is of course the reason for this board's very existence.)

So, this was not an easy decision; I never walked out of a retreat so far, but the reasons were just too compelling:
-I would be wasting precious retreat time during the lectures which just weren't relevant for my progress.
-Leaving early means I have more time for solo retreat later. In this case, solo retreat seemed like a much more efficient use of my time.
-I found the group atmosphere to be not supportive
-I didn't like the food. It was good, but contained mainly rice and mushrooms I couldn't bite through. I like my own food better, so the higher price doesn't pay off.
-I didn't trust the Qi-Gong. I'm sure the nun, Sister Dhammarama, is as good at Qi-Gong as it gets, but
1)The Qi-Gong made me feel bad, and didn't change my body organization much.
2)It might have some long-term positive influence, but the opportunity-cost seems just too high. Compared with a Feldenkrais lesson, this seemed to be a joke.
3)There seemed to be some magical thinking in this business. Dhammarama sometimes would tell us to turn around because "in this posture we breathe out bad toxins, and then we shouldn't be facing other people. Also, something about this form of Qi-Gong being very powerful, and her teacher's teacher's kids all having open channels and divine eyes or something. There was a booklet containing some basic theory about organs drawn on a clock (every organ is active for 2 hours a day. dafuq? What kind of number mystic had a go here?)
4)I guess, this is a sign of getting old (sigh): at some point you have to decide what's important and what isn't. So I guess I've decided: There's not much potential in Qi-Gong or/and it is not too my liking. Repeating weird postures forever based on vague promises just isn't what I want to do with this life.
5)If someone comes along in the future and has a convincing presentation of Qi-Gong and its real, actual benefits, compared to other approaches, I might change my mind, but I guess it's unlikely.

So far, I haven't regretted my leaving early.

I use the evening to research on Karuna practice in the Dhamma library and then play around with it. I have some intuition that this may be needed now, especially combined with the "Active-Acceptance"-practice. My previous impression, that I might be unbalanced and therefore need Mudita, is probably just wrong. So far, my few attempts at Karuna didn't do much, but I'll give it some more time. At least, it doesn't create quite that much resistance and hindrances as the Metta phrases do.

Day 7: I leave the retreat without any further meditation.

So, that was a lot of text. It may also not do Bhante Dhammadipa justice. His talks were well-structured, and in the first 2 days, there was quite some practical advice that was new to me. In fact, I would even recommend to do a retreat with Bhante Dhammadipa if
1) you're really into the traditional perspective, and the texts
2) you don't have the hindrances I describe, so you can actually productively work with Shamatha
3) don't mind about all the Zen-like nothing-saying deliberately-contradictory sentences, and his explicit endorsement of package models.
4) don't mind his unexplained devaluation of non-Shamatha based Vipassana, i.e. Mahasi et al.

Here are some of the practical things from his first talks, which might be of value:

1) There is something called brashrapdi (passadi in sanskrit, no idea how to spell it), and it means clarity and relaxation. Brashrapdi is the necessary condition for both Samatha and Vipassana. Metta is a good way to get it.
2) The 5 senses have to turn inwards. Otherwise, practicing insight isn't possible. (Mahasi Sayadaw and everyone on this board will disagree)
3) You need a good posture, without it, real Shamatha will not happen. This includes stability and relaxation.
The necessary condition for stability is support. You get that by sitting on the sitting bones, which activates some reflex that straightens your spine. While walking (or sitting on a chair) try to get pressure on the three relevant points on your foot: two on the ball, one on the heel. Same reflex here.
Put the knees towards the floor, so the hip muscles are stretched. If they don't relax, imagine you are walking, then they will.
Spine upright, tongue relaxed, touching the upside of the mouth, chin in the middle.
Close the eyes, but not completely. But not open so much that the colours distract you.
Good test for stability: have someone else push you. If you fall over or lose your balance, it's not good enough.
Some of these ideas come from a Czech physiotherapist called Vojta.
4) Brashrapdi is necessary for the breaking down of the barriers, i.e. sending everyone Metta equally.
5) The chinese traditions don't teach the first step: Metta to self. Teaching it is clever, because this produces Brashrapdi, which then easier leads to the breaking down of the barriers.
6) Traditionally, those phrases of Metta were used, which today almost no one uses. They differ in that they address the hindrances directly and are more direct, i.e. they are resolutions instead of wishes. Here they are:
Avero Homi: I am without enemies/enmity.
abyapajjho homi: I am without anger/hate.
Anigha Homi: I am without catastrophes/hindrances.
Sukhi Atanam Paraharami: A carry myself in happiness/bliss.
These are often translated differently. Dhammadipa says, the Pali is ambiguous whether it should be translated as subjunctive.
Then followed some explanation of why those phrases aren't delusions based on the argument that everything is a delusion. Your favourite bread is not very convinced.
7) For stability, imagine you're a golden Pagoda or pyramid, with your spine in the center. That did nothing for me.
8) If Metta for yourself is too hard, start with a cat or horse.
9) According to Buddhist psychology, all kinds of depression and fear is caused by resistance against unpleasant feelings/perceptions.
10) The guided meditation included relaxation including
-the brain, eyes, upper and lower jaw, tongue, neck, and various other areas (Sadly, I have no idea how to relax organs).
11) He had some alternative formulation for sharing merits which seemed reasonably, and which I forgot. May be worth looking for a good one.
12) The chinese tradition has something called "the 9 stages of Shamatha" which seems like a useful framework to understand Shamatha. I never heard of those.
13) Metta removes resistance to unpleasant feelings.
14) His analyses of the Metta Sutta includes what Daniel Ingram calls package models: "You can't divide the three trainings. They're one organic process. You've mastered one if and only if you've mastered all three. To understand this clearly is very important." So this is either high-class wisdom or delusional nutjobbery. You decide.

Other than that, in the library I stumbled upon a book by Joseph Goldstein titled "Insight Meditation - ___".
Contradictory to what I expected based on reading those who hate on him for spreading mushroom culture, there was actually quite a lot of common sense in it. Especially, it contained those tips/sentences for trying Active Acceptance:
-have a soft and spacious mind
-"It's okay. Whatever it is, it's okay. Let me feel it."
- Use this 2-step process:
1) Become mindfully aware of it
2) Allow space for it and let it be.
- On a larger scale, use this 2-step process:
1) Accept some emotion
2) Reflect if it is skillful. If it is not, find a way to remove it.

Hence, @Lama carrot top: No, Acceptance is NOT the whole practice.

So, this was a great wall of text. Tried to bring some structure into it, but still no one will probably read this, therefore
did more Active-Acceptance/Metta practice. Works, I'm very optimistic about this getting me out of trouble. Dhammadipa and Qi-Gong didn't work for me, then left early. Next step trying more Karuna.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
9/16/15 3:06 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
HI Bernd,

I hope people find your thread at the right time in their practice. To me it is a great account. Also: I have sat with this person [2] and felt your review was balanced; you reflected on yourself candidly and with humor. So useful. I do not read you as insulting, and I also agree that there has been devaluing others; for me that sincere detection of devaluing speech of others is not to be dismissed. (For the theravadans, demoting others is also contraindicated in AN 5.159, item 5 of 5.) 

Anyway, I think leaving retreat/teacher with a balanced understanding of the opportunity and the teacher is a great indiction of really pulling the teaching into oneself to actually investigate the practice (including not consuming a practice harmful to oneself, even if that's not the intention at all of the practice teacher).

When this sort of automony (without self grandosity nor promotion nor importance) occurs I think this is excellent: A person is begining to trust that, hard/messy as it may be, the only person who can do the work is oneself. [1]

Building a raft for oneself, we investigate it thoroughly based on prior knowledge of other rafts; if we trust someone elses raft, okay, but we may end up swimming back to shore again and again (analogy). 

(...) didn't work for me, then left early. Next step trying more Karuna.

Two thumbs up. If I had more than two thumbs I'd raise them, too.

[1] We can become better at finding teachers more in line with what we determines we need. What you've described here and elsewhere is (to me) not the flightiness that sometimes happens when one is new to the practice. To me, what you've described is the heart of taking the practice in very sincerely and starting to see what/who/how doesn't work for your practice at the moment, using own mind to say, "I'll try something else, because opportunities/time is limited and this other thing is just contrary at the moment." I don't think you're describing at all the gratifying-hunt for a pleasing teacher, merely you're acting on what is not effective for you at the moment, and importantly you're relying on what you have done so far to make this own-rafting-building step. It makes it a little more likely to find those raft-builders you can learn from/benefit with, too.

[2] I also heard research knowlege there of word etmologies and interesting histories. For me, at my time, then rich-in-a-jhanic practice with calm-content mind, the lengthy lectures were, from a historical point of view, very rich and interesting to me, suitable to a mind soaked in sukkha and listening. I opted at that time to not have interviews.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
9/21/15 2:49 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
katy steger:

[1] We can become better at finding teachers more in line with what we determines we need. What you've described here and elsewhere is (to me) not the flightiness that sometimes happens when one is new to the practice.
Yeah, I vaguely remember switching between 5 or more methods within 30 minutes or so when trying to meditate first few times. lol.
[2] I also heard research knowlege there of word etmologies and interesting histories. For me, at my time, then rich-in-a-jhanic practice with calm-content mind, the lengthy lectures were, from a historical point of view, very rich and interesting to me, suitable to a mind soaked in sukkha and listening. I opted at that time to not have interviews.
Yes, the guy has lots of cool stories, too. I just discovered he has some long talks in good quality on youtube, so if one is interested in a retreat with him, look them up. I wonder why I didn't bother to do that o_O

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/8/17 9:20 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I have done some Karuna. It is pretty unspectacular so far. With Metta, the mind shoots up lots of hindrances and reactions and often becomes rather fast. With Karuna, not much happens, although sometimes it is very similar to Metta practice. 2 noteworthy observations:
-Changing the phrase from "May I be free from suffering" to "May I be free from suffering caused by X" often causes some sort of Inner-Critic-Process to show up and intervene with like "No, not that." So, part of me wants me to suffer. Great.
-After 2 subsequent nights, I woke up and realized that in dreams I was lost in past suffering. This, then continues to haunt me for the next few hours. May be coincidence though.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/8/17 9:29 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I went on another retreat, the first half of which I practiced alone, the second half of which was under guidance by Visu Teoh.

In the library, I read more of the book "Insight meditation - the practice of Freedom" by Joseph Goldstein. I completely read through it and realized that it was basically a precursor of MCTB - 50% of what makes MCTB great is already in there - lots of emphasis on the separation of insight and 'stuff' and unequivocal criticism of the models of enlightenment. He also talks about how he was stuck in some Dark Night (not in those terms though) for 2 years, which may explain his emphasis on 'acceptance' in insight practice. The chapter 'signposts' also talks about A&P/dark night/equanimity/fruition, though only briefly.
And then, Kenneth Folk and others hate on him for spreading mushroom culture. I don't get it. This book was published 1993, i.e. 3 years before Daniel Ingram even started serious meditation training.

Here are some chronological notes. (Trying to keep it short. Writing down all my notes would take 10 times as much place, and the essential things [assuming I know which those are] would probably just get lost in there.)

Day -7
I arrive and do 3 rounds of meditation. The active acceptance practice slowly lets everything calm down. I try one Ajahn Tong style walking+sitting Vipassana, and it works, but the walking is not as pain-free as I hoped. I have another dream containing some sort of suffering.

Day -6
I do another Vipassana round. I can observe the noting. Then I can observe the observing. Then I can observe the observing of the observing. At the end of the sitting, I just sit there for 20 minutes, in which I don't know what happens. I conclude that the mind just started to remember the buried insight of the last 4 or so Vipassana retreats. I decide that this fucks with my mind just too much, and that Insight practice maybe shouldn't be tried as an aside endeavour at the moment. So I drop it for the rest of the retreat.

I try to do more Karuna, but the object seems unclear. I drop it.

Accepting some things seems easy. Accepting others not. I feel trapped in a paradox. I feel close to giving up. Later it seems much easier. I have another idea for an invitation phrase: "Welcome at home in the body" which seems to work fine.

Some Part of me feels like it is pushed down. After observing this several times, I conclude that this doesn't make sense if there's not something which is actually pushing it down. So I just assume that it is there, and invite it in my body. I get something, which later evolves into an image of pushing someone under a big protective stone.

At night, I have yet another suffering dream. This is getting old.

Day -5
Weird sad and angry emotional stuff, but not clearly seen. Most of the day I'm pretty disinterested in the meditation object. I could delineate the process more in detail, but as I read over my meditation diary, I realize that this is pretty pointless. During the retreat it always seems as if something new is happening, which it probably is, but in hindsight, when I read those notes, it is obvious that it's just a few conditions of the mind changing in ever-evolving configurations, including some hindrances of doubt, sleepiness, and whatever.

Now, suddenly something happens. In the break, I suddenly realize how there was non-acceptance in accepting both some sad Part and some Part, that didn't want me to look at the sad part. That means I actually disidentified from a third Part, which wanted to cut short a situation that is simply not decided yet. ("Standing it" by Ann Weiser Cornell's vocabulary.)
This seems like a major change, and suddenly there seems to be Acceptance of everything, everything seems more integrated and softer. So, the Active-Acceptance process did finally lead here, although huge doubt appears about it repeatedly.

In the evening, I feel cold, and mistake that for hunger. So I eat more than I had originally planned. I wake up in the middle of the night with nausea.

Day -4
I wake up, and some thoughts about sexuality arise, paired with disgust, with has been happening for a long time. Somehow I had always connected that to Vipassana practice, where they first showed up, and then decided not to investigate that any more. But this morning I wondered "what is behind those feelings", and it seems to be about attraction connected to visual cues and vulnerability about that. Seriously, mind? You've been kidding me with that for several years? lol.

On this day, interest in the object comes back. After the first session I fall asleep and have a dream about being in a Goenka retreat with lots of kids playing with lots of noise. I'm also there, trying to get to eat all the cake there is. Whatever.

Next sitting, I randomly think of "The breaking down of the barriers" and play around with the phrase "May all beings be happy". I notice that this feels very different, more pleasant, and at times almost imperative.

I remember Bhante Sujato's method, and start to play around more with the different persons (friend, neutral, enemy) and see, how that works.

Next sitting, I see stuff in suffering. And then I observe that. And I observe that. And I observe that. Yeah, that's three layers of "I see suffering in [recursion to next layer]. MIND WHY U NO MAKE SENSE? Lots of anger and intention to destroy everything. I'm hardly able to keep to the Metta person. I wonder when the moment of recognizing suffering comes. At the end of the sitting, equanimity is there, and I realize I missed it again. So this concludes the 10th cycle of Metta, although I have, by now and even more later, extreme doubts about the utility of this model. There was also the feeling of "I can't do this alone." On reflection, this is a recurring condition.

Also, some weird ideas for special techniques (Send Metta to certain group of people according to certain qualification. See what happens.) and lots of wondering about the location of the Metta feeling.

Day -3
Falling asleep after meditation again. Weird dream about a skateboard-gang on university grounds. I detect some unrest and wonder how often it informs my actions, and how often I'm then aware of it. These reflections seem to be an effect of the Equanimity which is prevalent.

Then there is sorrow. So, Karuna naturally arises within the equanimity. lots of 'stuff' shifting just a little bit on this day.

Later I get to more equanimity within already existent equanimity. Cool cycle. I realize that this is where in the past I somehow stopped practice for a while. Does it mean I fell into equanimity trap 9 times in a row? I guess so. lol. After the additional equanimity, lots of little jerks happen, and the mind goes all "yay, fruitions coming soon". Well, erm, no, wrong retreat here xD

Day -2
The conditions somehow keep me from meditating, and I end up working in the garden for 3 hours. Damn it, it got me again.

Trying to do some Metta for enemy person invokes violent murder fantasies. After I decide that this is ok, it's actually pretty fun stuff to have there.

I observe that there was actually non-acceptance in Acceptance, when I reflect about some ACT-concepts and repeat some of its phrases. I then realize that I'm currently convinced that this is a fundamental breakthrough, but I actually this is exactly what occurred some days earlier, although then it looked very differently. What does this mean? Does this thing have to happen in successive iterations? Well, maybe.

Later, the feeling of deep equanimity comes over me like a blanket. Cool, another equanimity-subcycle or something. I read parts of "Focused and Fearless" by Sheila Catherine and wonder how it is possible to tune into that Equanimity-feeling. I mean, it's just so neutral, right? Later, more reflection about some habits and how to best change them. I can see a pattern here.

I'm not alone in the center. There is another group here for the weekend, doing Quantum Healing. I hear a lady trying to sell some other lady a quantum computer which somehow enhances the coherence of her soul in connection with inner and outer meridians or something. At the end, they have a test (you won't get that certificate which you paid a thousand dollars for just like that, you know?) and after that they compare their answers. I learn that if there's nothing there, then that's called vacuum. Also, the words 'neutron' and, for some fucking reason, 'hyperspace' appear very often. I try to send them Metta, which ends up in creative new phrases such as "May you burn in hell" and "May you be captured and brutally tortured by my favourite army of chainsaws."
So, it seems I've really made progress: Anger didn't accumulate and grow in my mind, although it frequently appeared, which was of course totally suitable. I hope, I will never end up as a 50-60 year old person hanging out in those places. There might just be a random younger person there, warily observing you, with a "I don't want to live on this planet any more"-look on his face and thinking all the time along the lines of
well, me:

Seriously guys and gals, what is wrong with you? Shouldn't you be old enough to no longer buy into the ridiculous bullshit-scams? Can't you think of a better use of your money? Please, PLEASE lose those 100 pounds of weight, stop smoking, toss those high heels out of the window, then we can talk.

During a meditation sitting, a small guy (5 years maybe?) runs full speed into the meditation hall. He traverses half the distance, to me, then just stops and looks at me with big eyes. Best moment in the whole retreat.

Day -1
Lots of notes on this day, but I'll just write down some ideas for experimentation:
I get an idea from Joseph Goldstein's book, that I want to cultivate an "open and spacious mind". While it was intended for insight meditation, I wonder if I could use this. So often in practice I just repeat "I keep my mind open, soft, gentle, spacious, compassionate and accepting", trying some different words and comparing the effect.

After doing this for a while, I notice that there seems to be some hardness in the Metta phrases. So I see if it makes a difference to pronounce the Metta phrases differently, more soft and slowly, or in other ways. This works: anger, which was before built in, then comes to the surface. Or it's actually rage, having a protective quality? I keep playing with the pronunciation/tone of voice for the rest of the retreat. Suddenly, this seems very important.

Another idea: whenever there's something which is hard to accept, I drop the question "Is there compassion in this?" on it.

And another cycle of sub-sub-sub-equanimity or something.

Day 0:
What to do with Metta for difficult persons? JG recommends to remember a positive quality of the person. I have an intuition for another strategy: If it seems possible, inquire into my heart, what would be my deepest wish of my attitude toward that person. How would I do it, if I had infinite ressources to deal with this problem here?

New questions: "Is there suffering?" "Is there aversion?"

Stand up early for the lunar eclipse. Shatters my sleep rhythm. Damnit.

The retreat starts with a guided meditation. I notice that this alone (guidance by teacher, and presence of group) changes my attitude very much. I'm much more relaxed and have more faith.

Day 1:
I wake up in the middle of the night with a racing heart after having a nightmare involving a plane crash. I need several minutes to realize it was only a dream. When I close my eyes again, instantly another dream begins out of which I awake just seconds later, refilled with horror [female ninja trying to murder me, yay]. The Buddha says, Metta gives you good sleep and nice dreams. The guy is a fucking liar. The whole retreat disproves it, and this is just the latest example.

New idea: not only say Metta phrases with nice voice, but simultaneously try to "smile towards myself", which is different from just smiling, which came just naturally in the last days.

New idea: try to smile at someone or send goodwill to someone "from my whole heart".

New idea: try to 'embody' this whole-hearted goodwill somehow. I mean, so far I've just repeated dumb phrases. But maybe I can be like an actor on stage, who has to become the person she's acting? Maybe the same thing is needed with Metta practice?

New idea: do the Metta as a small child would do, who is still totally undistracted from his enthusiasm about Metta, without hindrances.

Another meditation sitting. I get very sad. Part of me wants to die. Nothing new here. Later I realize that I was pretty much 'in there', without any sort of distance. Although I don't get lost in it for a long term, when it's there, it's really powerful. I have no idea, what is really needed here to bring any sort of balance.

Another sitting. I suddenly drop into some sort of Focusing. But there's nothing here. Or is there? Seems like a very interesting 'nothing' that is here. The sitting ends before it can evolve more.

There is another sitting with a special instruction: send metta to benefactors, and try to remember as many as possible. If you do that often, the mind will find more and more, easily inclining to that quality of gratitude.

Then, I have the feeling that the metta cycle has restarted. I feel like I'm in the Metta tunnel. I'm stuck in syrup, and the Metta is there, but somehow not yet really. This seems familiar.

In the evening, I reflect that "meditation will not solve this [which one?] problem". I am very relieved and can relax. This seems to be the third iteration of the "Accept something, then realize that this is non-acceptance, and then real acceptance sets in"-cycle. Everything peaceful again.

Day 2:
I wake up at 03:00h. Can't sleep anymore. Go to meditate very early. Feel tired the whole day.

I have another idea: Visu Teoh suggests that building a network of Metta in your brain is a good idea. I reflect what that means in practice and conclude that "connecting as many points as possible with Metta" is a good idea. What are these many points? Possibly, they are just memories, which are just connected with persons. So here's the method I tried to apply: start at age 3, or whatever your earliest memories (real or not, it doesn't matter), and then move forward. At each age, try to remember everything there is, everyone you've known, and send all of them Metta. I try this. The more I do this, the more sad I get, the more weird images arise, and the more I wish a cruel and torturous death to all people involved. (I'm aware that this practice log may make it seem like I'm a very dark person inside. But on the whole it's not that bad ^^)

More reflections about Acceptance, and the process as ACT describes it. I realize I have really no idea about how everything works together. I start to wonder if anyone has.

Another cycle of non-acceptance/acceptance happens. I conclude that observing body sensations may be key to those shifts.

Day 3:
Better sleep. Finally.

This time, I'm still in some sort of acceptance. This is marked by heightened vulnerability, a smaller sense tension and real insecurity. I begin to wonder what this actually is, where I am now. Before, something drove me to do something. But after accepting the non-acceptance (this thing does my head in, and it will do yours, if you think about it long enough), what is there left to do? I realize, there's nothing. I just dropped from a playing field which is ultimately miserable to one where I feel very vulnerable, where nothing is obviously valuable, and where no kind of compass exists. What am I supposed to do here? Why on earth should I want this sort of Acceptance? Here's only suffering! What is in it for me??? These are genuine reflections, based on the reality of that moment, and they drive me quite desperate.

My diary is full with reflection on this day. The reflections go on during the practice, and it drives me mad. Why would I even do anything? There is deep calm and slow-motion (microscope-like) in some sittings, so I can observe the dynamics of acceptance, not-acceptance and desperation. I reflect about JK's "A path of heart", the first chapter. Well, maybe there's some heart in there, and maybe it has some sort of authority over what to do in this situation, but where is it? Will it please show up already and not be so damn subtle? I'm at Metta for over 800 hours and it still keeps me waiting? C'mon!!!

I remember that vulnerability may just be a key to your values. For some reason, mind is inclined to send Metta to persons, where there's a lot of it involved. Why does it do so?

Trying to do some Mudita. I reflect about how I have things that others haven't. It just makes me sad that they don't have it. Doorway to Karuna, it seems.

In the break I reflect about how I can solve this whole problem. Well, why would I? Which part of me wants to solve it? Is it even a problem? From where do I want to solve it? What does it mean to solve it? What should be the result? AAARRRGGGHH

Another Mudita session. I wonder where the motivation to do the meditation actually comes from. I then realize it's just not true that I should ask this question. Because the motivation is already there. There can be no doubt about it, because I've spent the whole retreat doing it. What other evidence, then, could you ask for? o____O

Suddenly, the 'technical' approach, which is often found here and in other places, seems completely off to me. Doubt, shame, and all the rest of hindrances seem completely irrelevant to my journey, and I deeply realize, that I should have my heart as the guide. "Compassion is everything." Or something. Whatever that movement of mind was, it subsided 2 hours later during the evening talk and I realized I still want cookies and stuff.

Idea from talk: use "reflection on death" as antidote to all sorts of things.

I try to sleep. Suddenly, mind goes on autopilot. Fierce repetition of Mudita phrases occurs. I soon conclude that there's just too much energy, so I go back to the meditation hall until after midnight. The mind keeps at it for almost 2 hours. The phrases are strong, but the mudita feeling is hardly there. Instead, there's rage as a base feeling. Whatever memory/thought/image etc. arises, the mind goes all "I rejoice about this" as if it suddenly had decided to reclaim all those experiences for itself. I wonder if this is the antidote to shame. Or just plain madness. You never know.
Even after those two hours, energy is still much too high. I hang out in the library. But it hardly helps. This is a difficult night again.

Day 4:
I'm still using the 'Active-Acceptance' method, but lately it has somehow fallen away by itself. Somehow, I recognize that in there is non-acceptance and then I drop it before I even start. Sometimes I wonder if I should deliberately use Focusing on something, but then reflect that I don't actually have a reason. After some time, I realize that this, too, is a "Standing It"-situation. Of course there's a reason, why would I bother with it otherwise?

Some fear arises. Suddenly there's some very short reflection along the lines of "whatever. If there's fear, there's fear. Come at me bro, I don't care if you stay here forever, I'll certainly not let myself be determined by that" after which it vanishes for some time.

The cycle, which I now call the "Acceptance Paradox" repeats some more times. Once, I have an image of some very small light coming through a small gap. This is the Metta. Unfortunately, I'm outside of that gap on the other side, in a vast space. I'm also on the wrong side of the gap, where there's nothing good. Because I can't control the guiding light, it's just there. Often I wait for the moment that I have actually cracked it. In these moments, I realize that this is impossible. I can't possibly do it. Maybe it happens, but then it's grace. Before it happens, I expect fireworks to greet me. Once I'm there, it's just... that. This feels very similar to Patisankhanana->Sankharupekkhanana, aka the transition of knowledge of Re-observation to Equanimity. I conclude that this is a general pattern at work in the mind, and it can occur with respect to phenomena during insight practice, but it can also occur in Metta practice with respect to acceptance. It seems that the territory changes subtly with each of these cycles, and the mind is then a bit more able to reside in Acceptance without dropping back to Non-acceptance. Still, I suspect that I'm not even close to any significant degree of comprehensive Acceptance of everything, whatever that may be.
The Buddha says "be an island unto yourself". I now have the idea that Metta may be that island and I just built it. It just took about 800 hours and 24/7 informal practice over 2 years.

There's also a sitting of Upekkha, which makes me sad.

Day 5:
Deep, genuine sadness, as if my heart was really touched by it now. Vulnerability, and the mind resting in it without recoiling.

End of retreat. Some reflections: My diary contains lots of notes. I didn't bother to write them all down. In fact, i didn't even bother to read them again in detail. It's getting old, it's always the same thing: It all seems really new on retreat, as if every moment is completely different from everything there has ever been. (And maybe that's the case.) And then I try to write those experiences down. And in the end I recognize that it's just the mind running into different sorts of hindrances again and again, which present themselves very differently. 'Stuff' keeps presenting itself very differently, too. Often, there are short, lasting shifts in there, but it's usually unclear what they mean, and also their significance is unclear. I could have rambled on and on about how this and that sadness/shame/anger/disgust/rage/... seemed to be connected to this and that and sometimes changed just a little bit or seemed to possibly want to shift in this or that direction... but what for?

So, maybe I should just write about the most obvious patterns, insights, and new ideas to adjust the practice. So, to sum up:
-I used much more time for the initial relaxation and smiling phase. Maybe this is much more crucial than I thought.
-The Acceptance Paradox/Re-observation-like cycle is quite a thing. Very curious how this will continue.

Apart from that, I was in the library, and looked for some new ideas. So I would just scan the book titles, look at its table of contents, and then scan a few pages here and there. My conclusion: There's just nothing new here. There's basically nothing I haven't already read in a slightly different formulation, no new idea at all, no method relying on fundamentally new principles, there's just really nothing. They could burn down that entire Dharma library, and nothing would be lost for me.
I get that same feeling when I look at the Internet, curious for new ideas to incorporate into the practice. Lately I've been looking at Coherence therapy and IFS. Looks like people made an effort to work out finely-distinguished details, but seriously, what is your big contribution? Where's the earth-shattering new insight that would leave me in awe for a month? I really haven't experienced that sort of thing for a really long time. If you understand the fundamentals of Relaxation, Focusing, CBT, insight/concentration meditation, Brahmaviharas and Feldenkrais, this looks like it encompasses basically every cool thing you can do with this body/mind. Tell me if I overlooked something which is really different from those. (Even this post contains too many repetitions.)

The same thing applies about discussions about traditions, methods, techniques, models, scriptures, old dusty texts and whatnot.
I'm sick of it. I wouldn't mind if this giant part of the DhO just burns to the ground tomorrow which contains all these useless, ever-repeating, never-mention-anything-new discussions about whether MCTB-4th path is fetter-model 1st, 2nd or 23th path. I want to throw a pie in the face of the next person raging about how the Mahasi fruition is not Nibbana or First Path as explained by the Buddha. I want that time machine to go back 2500 years ago and yell at these first-generation-Buddhists how they're just fucking up everything because they're too fucking stupid too compose a body of texts which is sufficiently free from contradictions and bullshit. I want them to put me in charge so I'll do all of that a lot better, although I myself have no idea how to fix that giant mess lol. Actually by now I just want to get enlightened (aka answer my own question, whatever that is) ASAP and then get out there.

Well... Ironically, this 'insight' ain't particularly new either:
Ecclesiastes 1:9:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/8/17 9:14 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Today, some random notes and thoughts.

I reread parts of the first year of this log and noticed how I was repeatedly blinded by some conditions which were simply that: regularly recurring things, without greater meaning. Some examples:
-Thinking that some other practice would be suitable
-Thinking that the Metta just flows by itself, without more effort
-Thinking that something in the emotional landscape is changing (this one is, I think, actually true. however, it is probably more the observation that something already changed. and the observation itself is just a random condition.)
-Thinking that the shaking in the body has finally stopped.

I'm reading Moshe Feldenkrais' book 'The case of Nora'. I love how the guy has a completely different perspective from everyone else, without ever going into nutjobbery of any kind. (i.e. not being Wilhelm Reich). "A state free of suffering is one in which learning is perfectly possible". Try to find something even remotely similar in any of your favourite buddhist texts.

There are 2 distinct ways two learn something. Or are there? Actually, there are 2 fundamentally opposed camps which absolutely hate each other. I will imperfectly sketch the differences:

The first one is the "do something right and repeat it, then it will become a habit." I'll state that this is VERY engrained in our culture.
An obvious example is learning to play a musical instrument. Small children are repeatedly told "Practice every day, and always practice right. If you practice wrong, then you will learn a bad habit, and you will NEVER (or only with VERY HARD WORK) be able to undo this habit.
In my opinion this contains some of the most dangerous half-truths that kids are routinely fed. They would be blatant, criminal lies, if the adults conserving them didn't believe them themselves.

The second way says basically "repetition is stupid because it doesn't teach you anything new. Also, repetitition is boring, which makes for a bad learning environment. There's really no such thing as a bad habit. There's just different skills. The more you have, the better. Doing exactly the wrong thing is great, because doing everything means trying out all possibilities, finding good ones, and enlarging your overview over what it is you could do."

Basically, I'm a big fan of the second way.
But then there's meditation. In which camp is it? I would say that it is largely in the first camp. That means I've spent >1000 hours on a method whose basic principles I reject. What do I make of this? I don't know. It's the thing which I most despise about meditation. (The other thing being how people readily throw out basic common sense when they approach an activity which consists of sitting without moving the whole day.)
What could I do to turn meditation into an activity employing the principles of the second camp? I'm not sure if it's at all possible. But I'm sure that no one really embraces the idea fully. Of course, lots of teachers tell students to "experiment" or "play with the instructions" and all that. But here's something that I think is really suspicious, and this pertains to Metta meditation especially:
Did any one teacher EVER tell you to "do the opposite" for any instructions that they gave you? Has any teacher told you to send hate and destruction to everyone else? To really embody it fully, find some useful phrases, and go for it? Why not? Are they caught up in magical thinking that this has unskillful karmic effects or somehow the hate will directly effect the person next to you? Did it never occur to them at all? Do they fear for their reputation because people may be too dumb too understand the instruction's purpose? Did they try it and found it was really a terrible idea?
In any case, I've decided to throw all constraints out of the window and try to employ the "do the opposite"-principle for some time in any way I can think of.

I've wondered how to practice more consistent. I have time, but then find excuses to do something else, usually completely useless. Why? I don't know, but I got the advice to just stop the plan completely, and then see what I'd do in the time span. Basically, as an experiment of how to deal with reluctance. The result was that I was still practicing, but less, but also much more balanced: I could see how some sense of externally-imposed urgency had crept into the practice, and into my life, which I totally wasn't aware of. Now it's more balanced. Still unsure what to make of this in the long run. Short-term effects are increased anger and motivation to do a lot of mischief. Among other things, this results in a bunch of lower-than-medium-quality-DhO-posts. lol?

Sometimes, I wake up, and my mind just seems to go into totally different thoughts for some time. After a few hours, it's over, and I'm back to 'normal'. What happens here? It seems that the mind really wants to go to some other equilibrium, but for some reasons, it's still not possible.

Read the IFS book. Some cool ideas in there. The ones most relevant right now seem to be the methods to actually ask some part to unblend from you. Works... sometimes.
Edit 2: Some other ideas from this book, which I played around with with mixed results:
-Asking a part what it wants to be named. Then using that name in the Metta phrases, i.e. "May [in me] be happy."
-Taking the worried part out of its situation and imagining a totally new one where to put it. I like rubber boats for some reason.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
10/29/15 2:14 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Bernd, you are doing some really good practice here. My compliments that you are descripting your experience so detailled and continuously.

I´m interested if you can tell the differents between the path of Metta and the path of Vipassana from your experience? It´s interesting because you have walked both paths. You mention in the path of Metta that you also experience Fear, how is this in comparison with the Fear during the 6th nana? Is there in the path of Metta also a periode like the Dark Night where it is difficult to function in your daily life?
I would love to hear your thoughts.


RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/8/17 9:16 AM as a reply to John Power.
John Power:
I´m interested if you can tell the differents between the path of Metta and the path of Vipassana from your experience? It´s interesting because you have walked both paths.
They are very different things. Vipassana works on the 3Cs, but Metta does not so much. Sometimes in Metta practice there is genuine reflection about and insight into the 3Cs, but this is much more on a content level.
As I outlined in the 'mapping Metta'-thread, in some ways, there are other similarities. That means, the experiences of equanimity, turning away, reobservation are there, too. But beyond that, similarities to the progress of insight are rare. My wild guess is that those experiences are somehow built into the human mind, and therefore are not unique to insight practice - rather this is a more general pattern, which can appear in several contexts with different details and side effects.

You mention in the path of Metta that you also experience Fear,
What I've noticed is that fear sometimes arises AFTER a change has taken place due to Metta practice.
Metta actually changes your mind, and this can be temporarily scary.
Is there in the path of Metta also a periode like the Dark Night where it is difficult to function in your daily life?
The experience of Desire for Deliverance, Turning Away, Reobservation are there in a way, as I already said. But I wouldn't say that they made it difficult to function in daily life. Then, however, I also didn't think that the Vipassana nanas interfered with daily life too much, unless practice exceeded 2 or 3 hours a day. But on the whole, these experiences are MUCH more gentle than in the Vipassana context. Really nothing to worry about here.
I would love to hear your thoughts.

You're welcome.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
11/12/15 2:02 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Some more random notes:

1) Some time ago, another cycle of the 'Acceptance paradoxon' ran through. So this stuff keeps happening, but what does it mean? Is it some sort of asymptotical convergence? Will this become some lasting 'state', or at least become a default? Will something completely different happen? Why isn't anyone describing this, as far as I can see?

2) Sometimes I feel like writing down some observations from current practice. Then I think what it is that I would write. Then I notice that this would basically read like a remix from some past posts, or even very similar to a single one. Therefore, viewed from some distance, it just seems that some random conditions cycle through, although (as always) the territory looks rather fresh. This reminds me of CCC's recent suggestion that we're just largely deluding ourselves about progress. I have little idea how to objectively check what progress exactly is made (if any), where it ultimately goes, and what will not happen. Additionally, I am practicing in a way that no one seems to have described ever (although it is a conglomerate of existing methods), so that doesn't lead to any more faith either.
Basically I'm acting purely on intuition. Which is a force that has failed many people before me.

3)Some time ago, Bill alerted me to Analayo's new book about Brahmaviharas. I was looking for that and found the following interview:
I somehow liked Analayo's comparison of the BVs to the different stages of the sun.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/9/17 8:40 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Some more thoughts on the Active-Acceptance practice.

I) I saw the term 'welcoming-practice' floating around somewhere, possibly from richard zen. That seems to succinctly and beautifully describe the core of it. So I'll refer to it by this phrase starting now.

II) I wondered how to quantify the results of Welcoming-practice. While there seem to be local changes (especially in retreat) to the content-setup, it's not at all obvious over the long term what it is that actually changes. Here is one attempt at observation:
When I do the welcoming, I'm often blended with some things. It seems that the unblending works faster or is even happening automatically. Let's say that in the beginning I was blended 100% with the most sticky things. Now it feels more like 85%. These numbers are completely arbitrary, merely designed to convey a fleeting impression that is subject to change on a minute-to-minute basis.

III) I had some early contacts with Metta when I first tried meditation. It would fill me with lots of feelings and I would be completely deluded and think I have the answer to everything. Later, I learned it at the end of a Goenka course. Again, it was impressive, but I had no way to cultivate that. Goenka's teaching on that isn't good. Even later, I learned to do some basic Metta at the end of each noting session. I did that over the course of almost a year. Usually I wouldn't notice anything, not pay much attention to it, and basically not care about it, while still doing it. Slowly, I actually grew to like that part, and noticed some subtle differences when sending Metta to different persons.

Often, people complain that they say the phrases, but they seem sort of hollow, meaningless, or fake. It wasn't at all different for me. But it seems that I have been 'tricked' to traverse that initial territory by doing the Metta in very small doses as an addendum to Vipassana.

Now to the welcoming practice. When I started to experiment with that, I viewed it as splitting off some valuable time from Metta. I tried to design the technique so I wouldn't get stuck in emotional stuff for long without regularly returning to the Metta phrases or feeling. Some days ago, I had a session where I suddenly very obviously enjoyed the welcoming phrases on their own. In that moment, I thought that my approach might be wrong, that I might be suffering from an instance of plain wrong view when I deny the importance of the welcoming phrases on their own.
So that begs the question: what exactly is the value of those questions? I took it for granted that they are necessary to shift the relationship to some things.
Of course, one could argue that the welcoming step contains some sort of Metta, because goodwill for some part of oneself is implicitly goodwill to oneself. Still, that abstract thought doesn't turn it into experiential reality. I do notice that whenever I switch to welcoming phrases, there's also doubt if I would be better off using those few precious seconds to repeat Metta phrases. It would probably be stupid to assume that this doubt has no effect.
If this paragraph seems messy and lacking a red thread, that's due to my lack of understanding, conclusions and general wakefulness at this late hour.

IV) I generally feel quite fed up with everything. I hate everything. Everything hates me, and always has. All of reality is hopeless. Better not to think about it, and keep my eyes and ears closed. I'm not sure this way of living is an improvement. I'm not thrilled, y'know. Still, I have some weird faith that everything must and will turn out ok. How does this mind even work? It seems ridiculous beyond explanation. I wonder how people feel when the 'everything will turn out ok'-module turns off.

V) Anger. Metta is said to be the antidote to anger. So I expected to feel less anger the more Metta I do. I guess, that's partly what happened. The other part being that more and different kinds of anger keep coming up and leave me wondering how much more there is. Seriously mind, how do you even cope with keeping all that toxic stuff in there? Where do you even put it in that little space? Sort of makes me wonder if those observations give people this idea of some soul floating in the sky, neatly connected to the Amazon-cloud or something...

(and why won't you grant me a bit of relief time before digging out the next batch of anger?)

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/9/17 8:29 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Just came back from another Metta-Retreat with Bhante Sujato.

On the whole, I feel a bit disenchanted. There's was nothing specifically wrong with the retreat. It's just that I feel that I didn't learn anything particularly new. It seems that I already learned everything from Sujato that is relevant for me now. The historical details, scriptural knowledge etc. is interesting, but ultimately worth nothing now. That said, the practice was still good, although I found the whole environment distracting rather than helpful this time.

Day 0, 1:
I don't feel good. I spend most of the time in bed. wtf. Some talk about how meditating as much as possible is a crazy idea. After all, the Buddha taught the noble 8-fold path, and no one does a "right-speech"-intensive, saying true things for 20 hours a day. Not sure how convincing I find this argument.

Day 2:
Talk: the difference is not western buddhism vs eastern buddhism, but rural vs urban buddhism. Rural monks need to put in effort. Urban monks need to relax. Somehow this was the motivation for Ajahn Maha chatchai to teach Metta.
View the meditation as a safe space, which can contain everything.
Also, some reflection about how 'loving-kindness' is a technical term, but not actual english. Sujato advocates the word 'love' and argue that while Christians have the very same image as Buddhists in the Metta Sutta (a mother's love for her child), they don't have a dedicated word for it.

Day 3:
Talk: the structure of the formal meditation gives a container to the meditation. Reflecting about stuff at the end facilitates putting it aside in the middle.
In the evening, there is Sutta class, about AN 4.192. Sujato goes off into a lot of side directions, explaining this and that. The Sutta is totally boring, and could be summed up in about 4 sentences. I have no idea why we even read it except to get some introduction using an easy one.

Experiencing another Acceptance-Paradox-resolution. Staying up to half past 12 at night. Then I suddenly feel cold and bad and can't fall asleep. This sucks. Return of raw/tender/vulnerable/fragile state. This returns regularly, and becomes increasingly impressive.

Day 4:
Talk: present vs present moment.
Evening talk: Sutta class. something about inter-faith dialogue. fundamentalism as dysfunctional reaction to post-modernism. delusion as active force. Sujato encourages us to do interfaith-dialogue. I'm wary about this, for I feel that completely dropping anything religion-oriented and starting from scratch may be the better choice.

Shortly after breakfast, some sort of Eq-phenomena happens. Seems like Metta cycle#11 completed. Some usual features of the progression were less obvious. After that: confusion, reflection about 3Cs, planning, sadness. Nothing unusual so far. In the evening, I often get a sense of being frozen in a flash of lightning or suffocating. This is a bit scary.

Day 5:
To talk in the morning. But a talk in the evening, answering my question "If there are lots of Arahats in the Suttas, where are they now?". Sujato takes this, and improvises a whole long talk about this, stating that it's an important question and we should all think about. I'll try to sum it up from memory.
-"Does enlightenment not even exist? Yes, this could certainly be true. Maybe we should just pack our things and go home."
-"You can go to google and find blogs of people who claim they are Arahats. This is completely ridiculous. People who do this strike me as delusional narcissists."
-"The difference between then and now isn't that big, because the Suttas and their later modifications likely exaggerate(confirmation bias), and even then it often took people a long time to become Arahats." Also there aren't actually so many people trying today. Maybe about 10.000 in SE-Asia.
-Some story of Sri Lankan and Thai monks talking about how there were so few Arahats in their countries nowadays.
-Some mentionings of personal meetings with some impressive monks. This felt very special, and he could only explain that by very high spiritual attainment. (Isn't that the same thing that people will say about successful American presidents?)
-Ajahn Maha Bua was considered an Arahat, and some others maybe too. So they didn't completely die out, it seems.
This talk caught quite some interest. Afterwards people just asked questions about Sujatos experiences. No one tried to poke holes in his argument which I didn't find totally convincing. I asked a question: what would be wrong with a Thai monk becoming enlightened next weekend opening a blog and detailing the whole experience for the whole world to see, out of compassion?
He answered that a highly spiritually attained person would probably not have any interest in these kinds of things. Also, they would probably want to live in reclusion.
Notice how this is definitely a soft-limited-action-model.

Day 6:
Morning talk was good, about neutral person. I didn't attend because I couldn't sleep the night before and then switched off the alarm clock completely. Hopefully they recorded everything. In the evening more Sutta class. Not too interesting, I thought. "All of this could probably be automatically evaluated by some sort of clever push-down automaton."

More suffering. I want all of it to end.

Day 7:
Talks about 4 iddi-palas, and five hindrances (comparing everything to tainted water).

A sudden unblending happens from the part that wants to push away all the other experience. This makes me very agitated for several hours. (I have an image of preventing a dam from breaking.) Apart from that, I have an image of energy shooting out of a well, after removing the cover. I stand up after the sitting and tension in the whole body is gone. This is very interesting. It happened before, but the fact that this is repeatable means the process is really reliable. Hopefully. More suffering already waiting.
The whole thing seems like some sort of A&P.

Day 8:
Talks about 6 senses, and a story about the golden peacock. and dohala, some powerful irrational craving.

It feels as if the suffering from the last months is gone, and now there's new stuff coming up. Let's see. Everything feels a bit like I'm actually on an insight retreat. This is weird.

Day 9:
Talks about 4th person (comparing terrorists to bees) and Jhana factors. I fell asleep during the talk about Jhana factors, and woke up when they were talking about paranormal phenomena. What's it about Bhante Sujato that he seems like such a rational person, but somehow he always ends up with rebirth and weird psychic powers connected to Jhanas? I have no idea what to make of this and decide to basically ignore it.

I hate everyone. I get a lot of fear, and later annoying images keep me from getting some sleep. Looks like textbook progression A&P->dissolution->fear->misery.

Day 10:
Looks like textbook disgust. First the turning away, then growing energy and finally doubts.

Evening talk was about comparing star wars and Buddhism. Very cool talk. After that, he talked a lot about how the maps from the traditions may not work for us, and we may have to find new ways, just as the Buddha did by dropping all traditions and Luke did by dropping the view-finder, before dropping the bomb into the death-star.
Some hours later I noticed the irony:
Remember what happens if you actually do exactly that; challenge the basic assumptions of the old traditions (goodbye, models of enlightenment), and be bold enough to get out your message and share all the details (hello, arahat-blog). This will in fact earn you an anonymous mentioning of being a delusional narcissist by Sujato himself. Oh, well...

Day 11:
Some long discussion about Samatha/Vipassana and (oh, not again) rebirth. I regret even being there. This is just such a waste of time. I highly doubt that I will gain anything by listening to discussions of Buddhists in this life, or at least in the next months or years. It seems there's just nothing. Just a bunch of people reiterating half-baked arguments of lots of different views, trying to hide the fact that they've just re-introducet the eternal soul through the backdoor.
I leave in some sort of early textbook reobservation, although I'm aware that it might be something completely different, taking delight in fooling me.

The retreat gave me more faith that my home-brewn method works. This is good. I didn't feel good on most of the retreat, and missed in total several days of practice. Not so good, but nothing I could do. For some reason I managed to overeat again and again. I doubt I will do another retreat in this form. It's sort of nice to have the support of other people, but I realize that they're not actually doing anything for me except sitting there and being silent. The talks and interviews, and even the schedule (being unable to sleep) was a distraction rather than an aid this time.

I had a series of interviews with Sujato. After the third one, i stopped because I realized I just had nothing meaningful to ask any more. Any more questions would just have been a waste of time.
Interview 1:
I told him how I modified my practice. He thought it was good because it integrates stuff. He didn't know the theory behind it, and admitted that the Suttas don't talk about it in that way at all. Also I should forget everything and start with a blank editor.
Interview 2:
-Smiling might be a good idea. Do it if it helps.
-Thanissaro is really into rules. This is his own invention, not advocated for by the Buddha. Don't take the 5 Precepts as more important than they really are.
-The aim is to develop the feeling of Metta. If some trace of it is there at all, don't worry about it.
Interview 3:
I told him about my observations concerning the Metta cycles, and their resemblance to the stages of insight. He said that the stages of insight are a legitimate psychological model, and of course these things will also happen during Metta practice. But actually the maps are tools for meditation teachers. The really interesting things happen when you don't look, so using the maps at all will probably damage your practice rather than help you.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
12/26/15 5:50 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Bernd your practice log has been really helpful for me.I've been practicing meditation on and off for 7-8 years now,sometimes I used to meditate a lot and then other time I would get bored and stop meditating for long periods of time.But I was suffering from chronic depression for last 2-3 years and got addicted to weed.At one point smoked 7-8 joints daily and meditated while high.For 1 year this continued and I felt really happy while high but sad and even more depressed when I was out of weed.Then about 9-10 months ago I became so high that I could'nt control myself and became scizophrenic.I lost all my mental balance and even at one point forgot my own identity.It was pure hell.Like all life and magic was sucked from me.I became unable to sleep and had to take a lot of sleeping pills and antipsychotics just to get some sleep.It took me 5-6 month to regain sanity,The antipsychotics were not helping that much and used to make me really dull so I seriously started meditating this time no matter how boring or dull I felt and this helped get rid of the pills. emoticon

So for the last 4 months I've been practicing metta with Sujatos instructions and It has really worked miracles.I was terrified 24/7 before and now I have no anxiety and depression is gone too.Even after getting off pills I had to sleep 12-14 hours a day just to get some energy.I now have no insomnia and sleep really well(need only 8 hours and now I do all daily activites),dreams are happy too.

Though weed made me insane,it helped me learn how to generate the feeling of metta and when I got serious with meditation everything just fell into place.Now i smoke weed maybe once a month and it doesn't really feel that great and makes me dull.I also practice fire kasina before metta with a candle flame.It really removes tiredness during meditation and helps stop mind chattering super fast.An active meditation which helps me generate feelings of metta is Sufi whirling.Rumi invented this method and his love poems prove that it works emoticon 

"In your light I learn how to love. 
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest,
Where no one sees you,
But sometimes I do,
And that light becomes this art".
~ Rumi

I'll try a seven day home retreat after a few days,I've never done any retreat before so hope I'll make more progress in 2016.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
12/28/15 2:17 PM as a reply to Saturatedfat.
So I now do Metta meditation something like this-

If I'm well rested then start fire kasina first.If not then first take 15-20 minute power nap.I never meditate well while tired.Fire kasina or maybe (Tratak) would be more specific,really helps a bunch.The main goal is to stare softly at the candle flame and not blink.The theory is our eyes and mind are related.If we forcefully stop blinking(while staring softly at candle flame) it's also easy to stop mind chatter/wandering.Learnt this technique from osho.I do this for ~15 minutes.

Next I do Skeleton meditation suggested by sujato and spread metta for 5-7 minutes.This really helps me spread the metta on the whole body later.Plus it is good for bone formation as research suggests.To me metta is nothing other than a cocktail of Oxytocin,Vasopressin making Anandamide.The word "Ananda" literally means happiness emoticon
The more feeling of metta you produce(oxytocin) the more you produce andandamide making you more blissful.This video explains this really well.

Then after that I give metta to myself for about 20 minutes.The opening mantra I use is "No matter what I have done in the past or what I'll do in the future,the door of my heart is always open to me"-Learnt this from Ajhan Brahm,and this really helps to accept myself totally.And then I keep repeating "May I be filled with loving kindness,may I be happy" until feeling of metta is quite well established across the whole body.And there are oxytocin receptors all over the body,so this whole body metta technique seems quite logical.

Next I give metta to a loved one for 10 minutes saying "may X be happy" using as less visualization as possible.Visualizing/imagining stuff got me hallucinating before,so I only concentrete on the feeling of metta.Then another 5-7 minutes on a neutral person,"may Y be happy" and about 20 minute for Difficult person.

After that,even though Sujato told to speard metta all across after getting into jhana,I speard metta everywhere anyways.I don't know when I'm gonna reach the 1st jhana but it feels a lot better after spreading the metta everwhere and remain there for sometime than just giving metta to difficult person for long periods of time.In total it takes 1 hour 30 minutes.

I really like the "Meditation mountain" simile by Ajhan Brahm-

The man is called "Mr. Sam Atha", he is going up the mountain because it is so calm and peaceful up there. The woman is called "Mrs. Vi Passana", she is going up there because she wants to see the beautiful view from the top of the mountain. Their dog, who happens to be called "Metta", comes up the mountain with them.

As they go higher and higher up the mountain Sam becomes more and more peaceful, but he also takes in the scenery. Vi enjoys the nice views, but she also finds it to be a very peaceful experience. Meanwhile, the higher up they go, Metta the dog wags his tail more and more.

In other words, the higher up "Meditation Mountain" you go the more stillness, insight and happiness comes to you regardless of what you started climbing for.

So it seems in metta meditation intensity is most important,you just need to get blissed out .For me when I really become blissful there is very little mind chatter and all fear naturally disappears.I feel really high after finishing the meditation and very peaceful.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
1/5/16 5:34 PM as a reply to Saturatedfat.
Bernd your practice log has been really helpful for me.[...]
So for the last 4 months I've been practicing metta with Sujatos instructions and It has really worked miracles.I was terrified 24/7 before and now I have no anxiety and depression is gone too.Even after getting off pills I had to sleep 12-14 hours a day just to get some energy.I now have no insomnia and sleep really well(need only 8 hours and now I do all daily activites),dreams are happy too.
Your journey sounds impressive. And very, very different from mine. Therefore I wonder what it is that you found helpful in this practice log?

Though weed made me insane,it helped me learn how to generate the feeling of metta
dafuq? Care to elaborate?

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/9/17 8:28 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Christmas was madness. Note to self: the days after a retreat can be destabilizing. Accept it and actually draw some fucking conclusions.

Did some more experimentations with visualization. Sometimes I try to use it to create a container for all the different things. Or to hold 2 different things in awareness at the same time. One nice image is clouds. In warm colours: red, orange, everything in between. Consisting of candyfloss.

It becomes easier to differentiate between different things. Often, some sort of aversion and anger appear at the same time, but after a bit of investigation, it is obvious that those are 2 different things, which only appear to be facets of the same thing.

Other than that, nothing exciting new happening. I find it hard to really calm down. Parts just keep flying around, without ever settling down. This is annoying.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
1/6/16 3:49 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Before I found your practice log I just learnt only basic metta meditation I found on youtube by sujato.I got the links of metta retreat audios from your posts and your expereiences in the retreats also helped me as very few people practice metta as their main meditation.Your practice log is very informative and I think anyone practicing metta will benefit from it.

This video explains schizophrenia quite well.

The things I'm about to say now will sound too ridiculous but this really happend to me so.....

Excessive weed,depression,stress all contributed to my schizophrenia.The day I finally was mad:I was smoking weed with my friend.We both got really high,sitting and watching music videos.Suddenly he touched my hand and I immedietly felt that I became twice as high.Then we just spontaneously hugged for like 15 seconds and after that it felt like a burst of energy coming out my heart area and it felt like we both were on top of the world and started dancing for no reason.It was all good and when my friend left my home,as soon as my friend left I just became high like never before and it felt like I will not exist.I became very afraid and tried to shake off the high but it only made me more anxious.Maybe if I had gone with the flow things would have been better,who knows.

And when my friend returned to his home,he suddenly lost all sense  of control and cried for a long time and then fell asleep tired and when he woke up he couldn't remember anything he did after coming back to his house,his roommates later told him about what happend.He's also taking pills now as he losses control and becomes violent at night when he can't fall asleep but on daytime he is quite ok.So we both became mad at the same time,but why this happend I have no fucking idea.emoticon

After the incident I became unable to sleep and my condition got worse and worse.I lost the ability to talk properly,I would try for hours to talk about a topic but I would lose track on mid way or keep repeating the same thing and never finish what I wanted to say.I lost all logic completely,became very superstitious about everything.At one point I became terrified of almost everything.It felt like everyone was spying on me,laughing at me,triying to hurt me.And it was so severe that even if a bird started chirping I thought someone has put the bird outside my house to mock me.I had vivid auditory hallucinations and some of them were terrifying.I was also convinced that the world was about to end. emoticon

I never had anger issues before but after scizophenia I suddenly became filled with anger and started to behave badly with everyone.When you become angry you simply become mad for those few moments and then again come back to reality.And the day you cannot come back,that day you need a doctor.I really tried to stop getting angry and consiously solve my problem and took me about 4 months just to regain some sense of sanity.I was getting nowhere with the pills and getting more depressed but meditation made things normal again.I used to do anapanasati at that time.

Weed doesn't provide any benefits for Anapanasati or Vipassana but for Metta meditation,I think it might be helpful just to get fimiliar with the feelig of metta.I find it really easy to generate metta on heart area and on the whole when high on weed.After schizoprenia everytime I smoked weed I was terrified as fuck and one time thought I wouldnt live but after starting practicing metta meditation the feeling of metta helped me overcome the fear.Now I smoke weed like I used to before getting sick(once or twice a month) and dont feel anxious anymore.


RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/8/17 9:31 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Didn't feel like writing anything down lately. The practice just keep evolving. I feel like I have found the solution, and now I only have to apply it for a long time. Well 'only' is a strong word; It's still a lot of effort, really. But it's still much less time than I needed to actually find it. Fuck you primary school, why didn't you teach me something useful?
mfw I think about how much suffering that would likely have saved me: 

Anyway, here are some notes:
-The 12th cycle went to equanimity mid-January. Then within that, another cycle to high-equanimity(?) within a week or so. Now it's back to some sort of A&P no man's land.
-2 or 3 (or more?) acceptance paradox resolutions. The last one happened only yesterday. I usually know beforehand that those are about to happen. It left me feeling very raw and vulnerable for the rest of the day. Seems like this is going somewhere.
-However, no more relief of actual physical tension. I wonder if there's a systematic way to improve that. It seems rather hit or miss so far.
-After getting to eq, I used a day to work, and actually did get into some sort of flow. Probably the best work day in 5 years or so. Didn't happen again so far, but I guess it is a good sign.
-I still wonder how to judge the effectiveness of the yes/acceptance/welcoming practice. At the moment I think that the most useful criterion might be inclusiveness. If there is resistance instead of acceptance, and this is ignored, then that might just freeze up the situation.
-It's also noteworthy that with different circumstances it might be necessary to the yes-practice in different ways. For example, yesterday I felt overwhelmed with stuff, so I tried to only say "yes" to everything that arises, without any more verbalization. But sometimes things don't "come forward", so I need to go there and actually "visit" them. Sometimes this is enough, but sometimes even that is lacking. Trust may be missing (saying "I trust you" is the obvious way to go hore) or stuff just isn't there (either acknowledge it nevertheless or ignore it and just repeat Metta phrases).
-All in all, the practice is rather pleasant lately. Also, I somehow suddenly have increased discipline and perceived urgency for whatever reasons, and I end up regularly sitting each day, without a lot of variation or missed sittings. Still not as reliable as in retreat settings, but I guess it's at least something.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
2/18/16 3:45 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Speed of cycles seems to increase. Only a month passed, and the mind seems to be dabbling around in some sort of equanimity again, so cycle#13 is almost complete. Stuff continues to evolve slowly, but no earth-shattering stuff lately.

At the moment, I am playing around with Mudita and Karuna, too. Both of these lead to an overall more gentle practice. Metta results in a lot of resistance, but the other too significantly less. Whether they make any meaningful difference in my situation is still an open question. I'm trying different setups how I can practice the 3 Brahmaviharas (without Upekkha) together. One problem is that Mudita naturally leads to Karuna and vice versa quite often, so it seems inappropriate to divide them into distinct sessions or even predefined temporal units.

I have quite a good grasp on the feelings of Metta and Mudita, by which I mean that I intuitively recognize them, which gives me some idea that I'm doing stuff right. With Karuna it's another story: there is something, but it looks rather like a bad-joke version of Metta than it's own thing.

Here is a glimmer of hope: At the end of the last session (20 min Metta/Mudita/Karuna) some tension (but not all) in my body dissolved. When I stood up, this left me with still a strong hyperlordosis, but the pelvis much more to the front, i.e. this left me feeling weird and unbalanced. But I guess in this case relaxation is good, regardless of the final outcome.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/11/16 4:13 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
In the last months, practice seemed to be a bit stupid, like I was just repeating old territory again and again and again...

Then I switched from Metta to mainly Mudita/Karuna, and it seems like a fresh story.
In the past 3 weeks, this apparently sent me through a desire for deliverance->reobservation->equanimity loop.

When I started, I could a few times let go of tension around the hip joint. Nice, but not a reliably repeatable experience.

At the moment I'm doing 10/35/35 breath&metta/mudita/karuna, frequently alternating with the welcoming thing. I'm trying how long I can stretch a single session without losing productiveness. Doing more than one thing in one session seems to help in this regard.

Important observation: In general, the practice seems to be similar to Metta. The difference is that the new thing seems to generate much less of an inner conflict, i.e. it feels much less like banging my head against a wall. I suppose that this is a crucial requirement for any practice to be effective.

Apart from that, I'll try to drop off-cushion Brahmaviharas completely, and replace those by off-cushion welcoming.
Reason: Mudita/Karuna off-cushion still feel a lot like banging head against wall. not good.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/9/17 8:33 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
It's funny how I experience an iteration of the acceptance-thing, and it feels like this big, important, life-changing thing, which probably it is to some extent. And after an hour or a day, it's much less of a spectacular change.

It's funny how sometimes I experience a felt shift, which seems to be so important, life-changing... you get the gist.

My number one priority is to practice in a relaxed way with minimal effort.
Recent attempts to accomplish this include:
-changing mudita phrases "I rejoice, I'm happy, I'm grateful, I'm content" to questioning, i.e.
"Do I rejoice? Am I happy?..." or
"Is there any reason at all to rejoice?"
Somehow, this seems to be similar, but less intrusive.

The same thing applies to the welcoming-thing.
Just asking
"what is this?"
"is it possible to be more relaxed about/with this?"
"is this thing true?"
etc. seems to beget a more relaxed outcome.

At the moment, Eq seems to have faded, and it's more A&P-like. But maybe not. whatever.

I'm still doing breath/metta/mudita/karuna.
I'm considering dropping Metta completely, and maybe focusing on one of the other two.
Maybe this is more efficient. Maybe interesting things tend to happen after spending more time on one thing exclusively.
Metta seems unnecessary to keep the other two going.
Every time I do it, I realize that it creates more stress/internal conflict than the other two, so why bother.

This post is a mess, but probably contains most significant things.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
4/7/16 5:38 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Seemed like a went through another desire for deliverance - reobservation - equanimity mini-cycle in the past few days.
This has been going on for weeks now.
Never experienced this before but now I'm convinced it's obviously real.

Before getting to Eq, I repeatedly decide to drop tension, however possible.
After finding myself in Eq again, suddenly the mind falls into pain.
Ugly, black, lonely, dark, isolated... something like that.
I'm immediately convinced that it was unavoidable to hide that for so long.
After a day or so, it backs off a bit. Seems like this was still a bit much. Maybe it will unfold over the next weeks/months.

How can one even live years with that amount of painful stuff. It's amazing. Humanity is fucked up. We need to develop serious medicine which initiate this process of self-mind-reorganisation.
I doubt that humans will ever on a large scale will able to do enough meditation training to be liberated from that.
Meanwhile, the problems remain and irrevocably destroy/numb whole lives.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
4/7/16 8:45 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.

I doubt that humans will ever on a large scale will able to do enough meditation training to be liberated from that.

I agree, been having this thought lately.  Who's gonna want to do all this work, especially given that most people don't even know how fuq'd up they are?

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
4/10/16 1:40 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
This is just my suggestion.It worked for me when I was in my dark night phase,maybe you'll get benefits too.
Try listening to OSHO.You might not like parts of his talks about sex & religion but simply just by sitting silently & listening to his discourses you'll get a clean high and you'll be easily be able to go deep in meditation.He talks very slowly with long pauses and the silence between his words will help you calm down and become meditative,his jokes are funny too.
Don't try to logically analyze what he is saying just try to listen to the silence between his words.His discourses worked wonders for me when I was in the dark night.Metta meditation is not working for you right now,nothing wrong about it,drop meditation for a week or so and try listening to OSHO's talks daily for these 7 days.Most of his discourses are 1 hour 45 minute long about the same time as you meditate,just try it.You'll see you'll become more positive,confident and go deeper in your meditation.And when you again feel more positive give metta meditation another try.
First watch these short videos on youtube,you'll get a idea what his discourses are like

If you like the short videos then please listen to the full audio discourses,they are completely free and can really change you positively.
The Heart sutra-
The Diamond sutra-
The Dhammapada-
The Buddha Emptiness of the Heart-
The Path of Love-

And these are his full lenght videos.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/9/17 8:41 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
@saturatedfat: Thanks for the suggestion. There seems to be some sort of misunderstanding here. The practice never stopped working, and I'm not going to stop it any time soon.
I'm familiar with Osho, but was never particularly impressed.

Development since last post:
A new cycle seemed to start. Saw an A&P -> desire for deliverance progression, that seemed old.
Then lots of unspecified fresh-feeling territory, then another DfD -> reobs -> Eq progression that also seemed old.
Meditation territory feels very new, although the parts it's made of seem old and known. As if the mind is unearthing the same movements again and again, just because it can do so.
Another way to look at it would be that the mind is walking in wide circles around an assumed black hole, i.e. reobservation, coming just a tad closer in each iteration.

Adjustments in practice: I basically dropped Metta and Mudita completely.
I do 20 minutes of noting in Ajahn Tong style, then 45 minutes of Karuna.
I used to repeat two sentences "May I have compassion with myself. May I be free from suffering".
Now I suspect that alternating those two sentences is not that conducive to really carve the Karuna idea into my mind.
Thus I now only repeat "May I have compassion with myself." and that seems to work better.

A difference between Karuna and Metta is that I have a clear feeling that is linked to Metta, but none that would be linked to Karuna.
Still, a certain idea is evoked by repetition of the phrase, and that seems to make a difference.
Side effects (stirrung up of all sorts of stuff) is there (same as for Metta/Mudita, but not for noting), but it is more gentle.

I am fairly certain that I will stick with this practice over the next months.
First impressions are promising.
Still weaving in the welcoming practice when it seems appropriate.
I feel like I'm at the end of a long exploration-process, which I should have sped up to a few months at max.
Staying with only Metta for more than 2 years was probably a waste of time.
OTOH, current effects may be "beginner's luck" and fade soon. Let's see.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
5/23/16 10:11 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
"How can one even live years with that amount of painful stuff. It's amazing. "

It is amazing. But for better or worse "ignorance" takes the edge off for most people, which is why people don't go completely completely completely bonkers. In a way it is harder for meditators because they don't have the protection of "ignorance is bliss".

For what it's worth, I always find metta/karuna formulations more powerful and effective if I use at least a three part statement: "May I..., "May we..." May I...". Usually I use a four part statement "I, They, We, I". It just seems to draw more power by not isolating myself from the rest of the world in my wishes/goals. When you include all beings in your wish/goal, then all beings seem to lend their support in some groovy way. Or maybe it's better to say, you don't find the self-other conflict as much of a limitation to your wishes/goals.

Another thing I would suggest is very short practice sessions. 12 minutes to settle, 5 minutes to open to new territory using inquiry, 3 minutes to rest/reintegrate.

Another thing that helps is trying the lying down position.

Basically, when you get closer and closer to the primal stuff in late stages, it helps to take it in small doses.

One last thought... I found my self doing a binary kind of noting for a while and it really helped: "inadequate" and "superior". Those two sensations/contexts are really at the heart of this "self" problem. Just becoming more aware of those two psychological rebirths (as a inadequate person, as a superior person) helps point toward the state beyond those extremes, which really isn't a state so much as finally living with those things in their proper context - just momentary judgments without much true reality.

Hope this helps!

EDIT: I just re-read your thread and my comments... and frankly I'm doubting whether the comments will be helpful. So definitely feel free to disregard if not helpful.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/8/17 5:57 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Hi shargrol,

My answer is late, but I did read your contribution.
Thank you for your suggestions, they are very appreciated.

"How can one even live years with that amount of painful stuff. It's amazing. "

It is amazing. But for better or worse "ignorance" takes the edge off for most people, which is why people don't go completely completely completely bonkers. In a way it is harder for meditators because they don't have the protection of "ignorance is bliss". That seems a bit skewed.

I would state that meditators still have the protection against the stuff which has been closed away.
(Conversely, those protections can relatively quickly break away even without meditation, which is what I've experienced.)
Meditation does not simply remove those protections.
If they should be called 'ignorance' is yet another question.
That said, I find that meditation is itself a much better protection than any kind of ignorance.
I'd certainly never trade that.

For what it's worth, I always find metta/karuna formulations more powerful and effective if I use at least a three part statement: "May I..., "May we..." May I...". Usually I use a four part statement "I, They, We, I". It just seems to draw more power by not isolating myself from the rest of the world in my wishes/goals. When you include all beings in your wish/goal, then all beings seem to lend their support in some groovy way. Or maybe it's better to say, you don't find the self-other conflict as much of a limitation to your wishes/goals.
On the one hand, I find that mixing random Metta (et al) phrases is confusing, and leads me into random train of thoughts, so I mostly stay with rather simple formulas.
On the other hand, your remark is spot on. I often notice that there is a very different reaction in my mind, if I include other people.
Somehow, the realization that we are all in this together makes a difference.
Yeah, I should probably do this more often.

On a side note, I find three-part statements to be not conducive to staying with them. 1-part is ok. 4 or 5-parts are ok. 2 or 3-parts don't work.
More than 5 part is a novel, doesn't work either.

Another thing I would suggest is very short practice sessions. 12 minutes to settle, 5 minutes to open to new territory using inquiry, 3 minutes to rest/reintegrate.

In my experience, short sessions are rather useless. It's my impression that I only begin to make a significant change after the first 15-20 minutes or so.
About the new territory, and the integration: I don't know what you are referring to.
I have no idea how to intentionally open up new territory, nor what it might mean to integrate those new things.

Another thing that helps is trying the lying down position.
If I lie down, I cannot concentrate on anything at all.
This is pretty much without exception, regardless of the practice.
I think this is useless for me.
What does it do for you?

Basically, when you get closer and closer to the primal stuff in late stages, it helps to take it in small doses.
What do you mean with late stages?
As to the primal/preverbal/creepy/dark/... stuff: I wouldn't know how to take it in small or big or any such dose.
Usually I simply cannot access it.
It sometimes seems to show up by accident, but only very shortly, and rather indirectly.

One last thought... I found my self doing a binary kind of noting for a while and it really helped: "inadequate" and "superior". Those two sensations/contexts are really at the heart of this "self" problem. Just becoming more aware of those two psychological rebirths (as a inadequate person, as a superior person) helps point toward the state beyond those extremes, which really isn't a state so much as finally living with those things in their proper context - just momentary judgments without much true reality.
I noticed that you wrote a similar comment, but more detailed, as an answer in another thread.
I read that with great interest.
My impression is that those things belong to some more advanced insight practice, and I might well encounter something similar when I'm more advanced in this area.
At the moment, I cannot relate to those descriptions.
When would I note 'superior? And when 'inadequate'? I have no idea.
So I suspect that this perspective is not relevant for me at the moment.

Other notes on practice:
I reread some of David Chapman's stuff. I'm aware that most of his writings are blatant overgeneralizations, but I found some of those things quite interesting this time. In particular, the "eating the shadow" article seemed cool. The idea that I can experience everything like an event in a ghost train may be valuable. Unfortunately, it's not expounded on further. As in many of his other ideas, the Chapman-guy ceases to write interesting stuff as soon as it would get interesting.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
7/21/16 6:43 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I can see now it wasn't a great suggestion. Sorry about that. Here's another thought... It's completely different from my previous suggestion, but I think it might have much better traction for you -- but obviously I don't know, so as always I'm throwing it out as a suggestion again.

This is something that could be a main practice or a supplemental practice. It's basically intentionally connecting to the so-called six realms of existance and doing metta in each one. In modern terms, it's all about connecting with the reactive, semi-conscious patterns in our minds, making them conscious, and being able to experience body sensations without being triggered into going into a reactive pattern. I found this practice very, very helpful for looking/re-living my dark stuff, especially at a body level, and feeling more solid even in tough situations.

The practice is to visualize being in one of the realms, spending sometime really experiencing how beings in this realm behave, and then do metta. If you don't "feel" compassion after a while, then just do the metta.

So you visualize yourself in a hell realm, the anger realm, where all the beings feel pain and instinctively lash out and cause more pain. Maybe it's a single person in the middle of a thorn patch feeling pain and trying to run away from it, creating more pain. The pain causes anger and the anger causes pain, the pain clouds the mind causing anger which clouds the mind and causes pain. Get a feel for this pattern and what it's like to live there. When you really get this realm, then do metta:

May they be calm and at ease.
May they be healthy, rested, and whole.
May they be safe and free from danger.
May they face the difficulties in their life, while avoiding unnecessary problems.
May they awaken.
May they be free from suffering.
May they be happy.

Do that for each of the six realms during a sit... or focus on one for a few sits and eventually work through them all.

Hell - anger
Hungry ghosts - greed, never getting enough
Animals - habit, always doing what they have done, confused about any change
Humans - desire, always wanting something, getting and wanting and getting and wanting
Titans - jealousy, powerful beings that want to become a god... but they always fail because they go too far, their power is their undoing
Gods - pride, always feeling good and avoiding minor discomforts, but in denial about mortality and eventual their eventual downfall 

At the end of each session, do metta for yourself:

May I be calm and at ease
May I be healthy, rested, and whole.
May I be safe and free from danger.
May I face the difficulties in their life, while avoiding unnecessary problems.
May I awaken.
May I be free from suffering.
May I be happy.

Again, this might seem to be very archaic, but basically it's using visualization to connect with dark material and gain a kind of clairity that is powerful enough to withstand the turmoil that happens during difficult mind states. Eventually you'll be able to "go into" each of these realms with much more clarity and less reactivity. It builds a very broad foundation for true equanimity.

Ken McLeod has good stuff online for the six realms. Highly recommended!

Best wishes!

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
8/17/16 5:48 AM as a reply to shargrol.
The practice is to visualize being in one of the realms, spending sometime really experiencing how beings in this realm behave, and then do metta. If you don't "feel" compassion after a while, then just do the metta.
Cool idea. As I understand this, the main point is to create as many connections in your mind to Metta as possible.
I had a similar idea some time ago, but not with the six realms, but instead with memories: Recall random memories, and try to connect the actors in those memories (or somehow the memories themselves) with Metta. I never did that, but still think that the idea may not be too bad. The six realms stuff sounds like it's a bit more systematical though.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
8/17/16 6:06 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
atm I have lots of time for practice.
Here are some random observations, most of which probably aren't really new.

I have a sheet of paper.
Everytime I sit down to meditate, I draw a line on it.
So far, this increases my motivation to actually sit down and do it.
It seems that self-imposed surveillance state works. o___O

After about 2 weeks of practice, a chunk of resistance vanished, and now everything's much easier.
Suddenly, I get a clear view of the Karuna feeling.
It is a bit similar to Metta, but the differences are:
-A bit of sadness is involved.
-It is hard to locate in the body. It's not like I could say "I feel Karuna in my left upper leg" or something. It's somehow there, but not with its own position. Rather it feels like a subtle change in the atmosphere. If Metta is a lamp, then Karuna changes the RGB value of the whole picture.

Focusing crowd will recommend starting to feel for stuff in the upper body: stomach, chest and neck first.
This is rather irrelevant. I get a bodily referent if I look at the whole body, or even at MORE than the whole body (whatever that means). There's also stuff going on, which seems to have no body reference at all, which is somewhat confusing. I feel like I'm missing some piece of the puzzle right there. It's probably right before my eyes, but I don't know where to look. gnargagghxxbrbr. Well, back to Karuna then..

All the different conditions seem more and more familiar.
I sit down, and think "Ah, here's something weird with the attention phase. Ah, today lots of body perceptions by themselves. Also, I have a desire to lie down and read comics. yeah, whatever. Nothing new here."  

I experienced one short run through all the nanas, and now seem to be between desire for deliverance and re-observation, probably as a part of a more global nana. Or whatever, lol.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
8/20/16 9:01 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Right now, I feel great.
It seems that another letting go of resistance happened, and with that a bit of chronic tension vanished, too.

About one year ago, I experimented with phrases such as "Hi, something. I know you're there. Of course" etc.
(Source: IFS/IRF)
Now I switched too "Of course I feel X" or "Of course there is X".
Some people say that this is identifying language, and therefore not so good, but it seems better suited for me right now.
It seems that this is becoming a habit, showing up at random times during the day, in reaction to some internal criticism, enhancing the state of the mind a lot.
This is great, and right now it seems like this is the missing piece of the puzzle, although it's not really that new, so probably not really.
Anyway, this reminds me of something this guy writes here:
Let me quote:

But I?d like to narrow in on an explanation that seems to apply elsewhere: If you ask your brain seemingly slightly different questions, you sometimes you get very different answers. You see this in debiasing attempts, where, say, you ask yourself to meta-estimate your probability of being right, or you ask the same question phrased in different ways, or you ask ?able? vs ?willing.? There?s all sorts of possibilities, many of which haven?t been explored, and they change your answer.

I think something similar is going on, here, in Focusing-land, where you can get a lot of mileage out of seemingly slight variations on the technique, which makes me think we don?t really have a good model of the underlying reality.

This observation may be true or false. If it's true, then that has serious implications for meditation practice: What if efficiency of Brahmavihara practices can be significantly improved simply by using different phrases from time to time? Similarly, the different phrases I described above may be the reason for newfound change.

And now to something completely different:
I finally read the first 4 chapters of the mind illuminated, and also the interludes about the models of the mind.
I will probably not read the rest soon, because it seems irrelevant for my practice right now.
But I'm thoroughly impressed.
The descriptions seem so straightforward and obvious that I have to wonder why this book wasn't written 50 years ago.
(Well, maybe it was?)
Here are some things which stood out to me:
-"Don't try to limit peripheral awareness". Well. I remember doing this, and then reality sort of collapsed, I heard creepy screeching sounds, gravity became weird, and I got intense headaches. My teacher told me not to do this, but I wonder why it was never explicitly told _beforehand_!
-"Will power is not effective. Instead, keep the mind interested with games." lol. This could have been from Feldenkrais himself.
-"Always intentionally select the locus of attention. This may be a combination." ok, I frequently forget that. May be a good idea to define this more clearly.
-"Relation between attention locus (which sensations are 'allowed') and drowsiness"
-"Actively rejoice about the moment, where you remember to watch the breath" This is nice. Tons of teachers stress that you should not get upset if you lose focus. But I cannot recall a single one who recommends to actively rejoice about this. Strange, isn't it.
-Then, there is lots of talk about introspective meta awareness or something, and how checking in should become a habit. I confess that I don't know how to do that. Do 2 things at once? This sounds totally confusing. But I realized that the noting technique as I learned it in Ajahn Tong's tradition is really a clever scaffolding, designed to make this balance happen by itself. I wonder if Ajahn Tong thought similarly about these things when he designed the technique.
-The mind system model which is turtles all the way down... I don't know. I fail to see  the value of this model.

Next book I'll look into: Mindful Focusing by David Rome.
On a side note, there are some new Eugene Gendlin Videos on youtube.
This guy is so relaxing, I could listen to him the whole day (:                        

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
8/24/16 5:29 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.

I'm in hair-on-fire mode, at least as far as practice in lay life goes.
Conditions won't get better than now, and I want my life (back?).
Some thoughts/observations from the past days:

1) Subnanas
When I first started to meditate, everything always seemed rather fresh.
Today, there are stretches of hours to days where territory seems familiar, like I've already solved it, and now it's just briefly repeating for whatever reason.
Normally, I have no idea what's going on nana-wise, but in those repetition-phases it seems quite obvious.
The last two days were such review-phases. I could see the difference between 10.9.8 and 10.9.9 and observe the transition from 9.11.4 to 9.11.6 and many other things.
I wonder if I'm simply making this up lol.
There is also a certain obsession with tracking those movements which is probably a waste of time.

2) Pairing
In my first Metta retreat, there was a moment where a Sad Part and a block of Metta connected, and I could hold both things in awareness at the same time. This happened once, and then never again.
According to Coherence Theory (and somatic experience iirc), the ability to hold two contradicting things in memory at the same time is crucial for change.
This begs the question if it is arbitrarily possible to hold a Brahmavihara and another Part in the mind at the same time.
(Or maybe three or more?)
I'm trying to do this. But it's hard to tell if it's working or if I only imagine it. Hm.

3) 2 Ways of Change
There are two distinct ways of change which I experience.

The first one is just repeating Brahmavihara phrases forever.
Very slowly, this has some effect on the mind, and subtle change happens.
Over (much) time, this change is significant.
This mode of practice is a bit dumb, but it works.
It's also pretty robust. You can hardly do it really wrong. As long as the phrases are repeated, it will work.

The second is the Focusing-type.
Felt shifts happen, and there is change. This seems to be much faster change, but getting the conditions right is tricky.
It seems possible to waste a lot of time without getting anywhere.

There is a certain interplay between both practices. Saying the Brahmavihara phrases evokes lots of Stuff, which is closely connected to Felt Senses or at least Partial Felt Senses. This makes it easy to connect to those things.
However, there are large phases of time, where the Stuff-evocation does not happen. For two reasons:
Either because it is too volatile (Stuff changes and vanishes too fast to connect to it) or because it just doesn't appear.
In the second case: It seems that the stuff just vanishes somewhere deep into the background. Maybe there is some sort of deadening happening here? I don't know.
This question leads me to the tentative guess to structure practice in such a way to prevent this deadening-effect.
The aim would be to implicitly invite the Felt Sense-Parts consistently.

How could this be established?
The most obvious idea would be to mix in more Focusing-Elements and invite Stuff consciously. The problem with this approach is that it needs lots of time and possibly won't work. Also, if Stuff vanishes again as soon as I transition to Brahmaviharas, then this defeats the purpose.

Another possibility would be to change Brahmaviharas more often.
The most blunt approach would be to change to another Brahmavihara as soon as Stuff vanishes. (On-demand spontaneous switching)
But this probably leads only to confusion. Mind will soon adapt, and do all sort of weird stuff, and no concentration on the phrases will develop at all.
Thus this is probably useless.

What to do instead? Changing Brahmaviharas on a fixed schedule may be more feasible. Such as doing a different one each day, or even each sitting. (Alternating 20 minutes each in one sitting seems to be too much confusion.)
Maybe I should try that.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
8/24/16 9:04 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Sounds really good.

Yup, it's common to go through territory that seems familiar/solved and for things to just move on. That's indeed the major evidence for there being nanas that present in a fairly consistent order.

bernd the broter24.08.2016
There is a certain interplay between both practices. Saying the Brahmavihara phrases evokes lots of Stuff, which is closely connected to Felt Senses or at least Partial Felt Senses. This makes it easy to connect to those things.
However, there are large phases of time, where the Stuff-evocation does not happen. For two reasons:
Either because it is too volatile (Stuff changes and vanishes too fast to connect to it) or because it just doesn't appear.
In the second case: It seems that the stuff just vanishes somewhere deep into the background. Maybe there is some sort of deadening happening here? I don't know.

How could this be established?
The most obvious idea would be to mix in more Focusing-Elements and invite Stuff consciously. The problem with this approach is that it needs lots of time and possibly won't work. Also, if Stuff vanishes again as soon as I transition to Brahmaviharas, then this defeats the purpose.

Another possibility would be to change Brahmaviharas more often.
The most blunt approach would be to change to another Brahmavihara as soon as Stuff vanishes. (On-demand spontaneous switching)
But this probably leads only to confusion. Mind will soon adapt, and do all sort of weird stuff, and no concentration on the phrases will develop at all.
Thus this is probably useless.

What to do instead? Changing Brahmaviharas on a fixed schedule may be more feasible. Such as doing a different one each day, or even each sitting. (Alternating 20 minutes each in one sitting seems to be too much confusion.)
Maybe I should try that.

The work above sounds really good. One thing that is easy to overlook is when the lack-of-stuff experience arises and there is a wanting for something different -- that, right there, is Stuff. It's subtle stuff, subtle aversion, but it is as important as bigger experiences of Stuff. So when nothing seems to be happening and there is an urge to switch methods in order to be more productive -- look directly at that urge.

This is the big difference between psychology and meditation. Psychology focuses on the bigger storylines, the bigger stuff. Meditation goes through that territory, but then there is an opportunity to look at the subtle urges that are underneath it all.

A very basic practice is to notice and distinguish between pleasurable sensations vs greed/clinging, negative sensations vs aversion, neutral sensations vs boredom/indifference/ignoring. Experientially, if you can distinguish between +/-/0 sensations and greed, aversion, and ignorance the power of "stuff" goes away and there is a lot more freedom and appreciation of how things actually are.

Hope this helps!

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
9/5/16 6:14 PM as a reply to shargrol.
The work above sounds really good. One thing that is easy to overlook is when the lack-of-stuff experience arises and there is a wanting for something different -- that, right there, is Stuff. It's subtle stuff, subtle aversion, but it is as important as bigger experiences of Stuff. So when nothing seems to be happening and there is an urge to switch methods in order to be more productive -- look directly at that urge.
Ah thanks shargrol. This may be exactly what I needed right now. Incredible timing.
It's not really new information, but somehow I lost track of this aspect. It's just too easy to get lost in this stuff u_U

This is the big difference between psychology and meditation. Psychology focuses on the bigger storylines, the bigger stuff. Meditation goes through that territory, but then there is an opportunity to look at the subtle urges that are underneath it all.
Yes. I also find that this makes the whole endeavour much more complicated and confusing. The Focusing-practice is obviously worthwhile, but it can also be motivated by simple aversion, and untangling all those different things, and trying to make sense of all of it in a single practice is quite challenging.

A very basic practice is to notice and distinguish between pleasurable sensations vs greed/clinging, negative sensations vs aversion, neutral sensations vs boredom/indifference/ignoring. Experientially, if you can distinguish between +/-/0 sensations and greed, aversion, and ignorance the power of "stuff" goes away and there is a lot more freedom and appreciation of how things actually are.

I'm not sure how to do that. In intensive noting practice, I would regularly automatically become aware of this distinction, but with Metta practice this just doesn't happen. In fact, it happens so little, that I simply forgot about this possibility. Anyway, I tried to do the following: whenever something feels 'off', I would just ask myself two simple questions:
1) What is the feeling tone of my experience right now?
2) What is my attitude towards this right now?
Often, the experience would instantly change a bit, though the change would be rather subtle.

Hope this helps!

Practice since I read your reply:
After reflecting on your comment and somehow trying to implement your suggestions, the next session was very different, with the differences between feeling tone and aversion being very obvious.
Unsurprisingly, this was an outlier, and the following sittings were not that extreme, rather muddy and confusing.
Motivation was still very high, then suddenly dropped for a few days, then there was a shift to equanimity, which confused me, because I used to experience two different progress-of-insight-like processes at the same time, and this time it was not clear what the equanimity was actually directed to.
It seems that I've been in rock-solid equanimity for the past few days.
At one occasion I could simply decide to drop some of the excess body tension.
It later came back, and made me wonder what are the conditions that I can simply decide stuff like this.
And if I could decide it then, can I do so now? Why (not)? And do I want to decide it? Where do decisions even come from? This is eating my brain u_U
Also, it seems that the mind spontaneously abandons some of the useless patterns that I've been observing for months (or years? It's been a long time.). Seems promising. I remember what a noting teacher told me: "maybe you will do it again another ten thousand times, but finally you will get it, and then you will stop this behaviour."
As usual, it's too early to send invitations to the party, but I'm currently rather optimistic, attenuated by the balancing property of Equanimity.

RE: Bernd's Metta
9/5/16 7:10 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Nice! How awesome that you can see that many of the psychology-oriented practices are great at dealing at gross problems, but it creates another subtle problem of always needing to find some problem to apply some method and on and on and on! The domain of meditation is where you simply sit and do nothing or nearly nothing --- and become familiar with that way of experiencing. What happens during doing nothing is all the automatic ways of subtly manipulating experience becomes very obvious. We need some project, some angle, some power struggle, some sense of getting more good stuff and avoiding more bad stuff. Which is fine, but it's very curious that we can't sit and just _be_.

So the whole point of meditation is to achieve some kind of equanimity and dwell in it. Being comfortable experiencing and not manipulating things. Eventually that equanimity oozes into every experience and there is a lot less basic suffering, that basic neurosis or paranoia that comes from always needing to do something, achieve something, fix something, etc. It's hard to imagine how much easier aspects of living can be when we aren't fighting ourselves all the time.

This can be gnarly work, though. No doubt about it. That old joke "better not to start, but if you start, better to finish quickly" has enough truth to it that it shouldn't be ignored. The truth is you kinda tear down old patterns and build back a much cleaner sense of self. Sounds great, but it's hard work.

bernd the broter
Anyway, I tried to do the following: whenever something feels 'off', I would just ask myself two simple questions:
1) What is the feeling tone of my experience right now?
2) What is my attitude towards this right now?

sounds good!

It seems that I've been in rock-solid equanimity for the past few days.
At one occasion I could simply decide to drop some of the excess body tension.
It later came back, and made me wonder what are the conditions that I can simply decide stuff like this.
And if I could decide it then, can I do so now? Why (not)? And do I want to decide it? Where do decisions even come from? This is eating my brain u_U
Also, it seems that the mind spontaneously abandons some of the useless patterns that I've been observing for months (or years? It's been a long time.). Seems promising. I remember what a noting teacher told me: "maybe you will do it again another ten thousand times, but finally you will get it, and then you will stop this behaviour."
As usual, it's too early to send invitations to the party, but I'm currently rather optimistic, attenuated by the balancing property of Equanimity.

really nice! Yes, that's exactly it. What seems to happen is if you have enough awareness, then an experience is occurring _within_ awareness and you have a lot of choices about dropping body tensions, watching emotions without reacting, having thoughts without believing them as absolutely true, etc. But when mindfulness is weak, then you are in some way embedded in the experience and you can't drop tensions or experience emotions and thoughts -- you are too busy reacting to them.

So meditation gives you a chance to become intimate with what is occurring, building mindfulness, and allowing you to experience things without reactivity, which gives you a lot more options in how you respond to experiences.

And as always, the trick is to do exactly what you are doing. When things seem to be going wrong, reconnect with your feeling tone and reconnect with your attitude.

Best wishes!

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
9/6/16 7:30 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Another way to say it is, in psychological approaches you "deal" with an experience by applying a method, like applying an antidote. In meditation methods, you go "through" an experience by fully experiencing it. If you can't really fully experience things, go slow, take your time, keep chipping away, and if things are really bad, apply psycholgical methods.

​​​​​​​In meditation, each experience is a door to a door to a door... and almost imperceptibly you grow more mindful, and suddenly you look around an say, wow, thing are really different from the way I used to react before. There are ways to map different stages and different kinds of insights, but in terms of process: it's just getting your butt onto the cushion and getting used to watching the mind as mind.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
9/23/16 5:27 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Another way to say it is, in psychological approaches you "deal" with an experience by applying a method, like applying an antidote. In meditation methods, you go "through" an experience by fully experiencing it.
I actually disagree with this.
The divide of "remove something" vs "experience something" is not between psychology and meditation.
In fact, the Buddha himself was a convinced proponent of the "remove something" method: he repeatedly admonished his students to remove unwholesome mind states if they have arisen.

My current stance on this is that both attitudes can be part of both psychology and meditation.
For example, the focusing-type practices can be done being completely open to the result of the practice.
Simple curiosity can drive them, without any expectations regarding the outcome.
They can be done out of the simple recognition that it is a good thing to do them. If something needs your attention, why not tend to it?

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
9/23/16 5:50 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I wouldn't want anyone to get hung up on the distinction I'm making, that's for sure! I agree there are exceptions and gray areas in the simplistic dichotomy ("fixing/dealing with" experience vs. "opening to" experience) that I was suggesting.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/8/17 9:34 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I was on another retreat with Visu Teoh for a week. Now I'm back. Here are some notes.

Day 1: can't sleep because of noisy neighbours. Also the introductory metta session gave me a headache.
I drop Metta completely. In the rest of the retreat I do only the other 3, with a focus on compassion.
I fall asleep at about 3:45AM.

Day 2: Usual retreat-beginning doubts. What am I even doing here? Should I go home? blablabla.
I wake up at 3:45, a complete turnaround from the day before. I can't sleep on, so I stand up and meditate.

Day 3: Disgust here. Everything's rather quiet. And boring. Visu tells me to see the practice in a broader context. There's not only compassion, but the other things, too.

Day 4: I decide that the Buddha's teaching is rubbish. All this talk about suffering is going on my nerves so much.
As a result, I suddenly detect some subtle aversion to experience, which then falls away. For the coming ours, I bath in a wonderful oasis of Metta and compassion. It feels wonderful, and healing. Lots more aversion falls away, and part of reality seems to get integrated with more acceptance. This sounds sort of vague and empty of meaning, but in the experience it was quite obvious.
In the evening talk it is stressed that Metta really has a cooling, sobering quality, not necessarily warm and pleasant, especially with the more difficult persons. That may be true, but the pleasant phases are really as rare as impressive r_r

Day 5: Subtle transformation of important Parts. Some insight how they are really mad at something. Remains vague.
I notice that I reexperience old states from past Vipassana retreats.
Since the compassion does not evoke the "bang head against wall" effect like Metta does for me, I'm able to go deeper and deeper into meditation.
The noticing module is activated automatically without explicit verbal notes.
My practice is suddenly a mixture of compassion and Vipassana, and thus I seem to be recalling the Vipassana retreats. Fascinating.

Day 6-7: I finally get to equanimity after going through the fractal of already understood territory several times.
My practicing times get longer and longer, and the energy rises, sleep levels drop.
An impressive thunderstorm (clarification: in the real world. I stand at the window and look at hundreds of lightning bolts, as they slowly come closer to the place) enters the scene, as I continue to go deeper in equanimity.
Occasionally, vague, dark and frightening pictures of various monsters, animals or ghosts flash into awareness briefly.
I'm very excited.
After 11 hours of sitting meditation, I decide to go to sleep.
Usually, on the last day the motivation declines, but not in this case. Going home, there is nothing else waiting for me except more meditation, so what's the point.
This retreat is much too short. What can you accomplish in a week, really? But it really needs to end. More than 10 hours sitting a day is too hard on my body. The pains increase. I'm not 15 any more. Damnit.

-It seems that I went through the whole progress of insight in 7 days, except the rest of Eq.
This contained several old retreats.
-Without the headaches and resistance induced by Metta, the compassion allows me to get into deeper concentration. Then, the practice becomes much more similar to Vipassana. Sort of makes me doubt if I even need to do the Vipassana again.
-Old ideas come up occasionally. I can say the Metta like Shakespeare, I can decide to eat the uncomfortable stuff etc. Nothing new here.
-It's great to have a good guide. To be subtly kept on track is simply helpful. Too bad I don't have a regular meditation teacher as a neighbour or something.
-With some experimentation, I created the following technique:
Repeat "May I have compassion with myself" forever.
If distractions arise, say the Mudita phrases:
"I rejoice. I'm happy. I'm grateful. I'm content"
After all, you have remembered to come back, which should be a cause for joy.
(Inspiration from "the mind illuminated").
And while I'm at it, I can insert additional steps
(Inspiration from Bhante Vimalaramsi).
So I simply say "I bring a smile into my mind" or "I smile to myself".
After that, I sometimes get to body awareness, before returning to the compassion.
Although those are different steps, I feel that they do not lead me to confusion.
I followed this method for almost the whole retreat, and as far as I can tell, it worked great.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
9/23/16 8:37 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Awesome, inspirational!

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
11/9/16 7:56 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
This post is written past midnight, where some of my brain's parts seem to be switched off. Woohoo!

Since the last retreat, another nana-rotation happened. This took about 4 weeks.
In comparison to the retreat, this was so boring. I felt like I actually took a step back.
As if the mind doesn't believe the change it experienced before, and everything's reverted and has to be done again, only this time it doesn't really work. Come on, this meditation-thing is supposed to be fun and games and exciting and life-changing and whatnot. None of this "have discipline and just do the practice regardless of random conditions"-stuff, this is much too boring.
The nana-rotation is boring, too. What's the point of practice if one can predict with impressive accuracy the conditions of the following days? Come on, I want more heart-breaking surprise, uplifting ecstasy in delusion, surprising plot-twists and what-not.

In particular, the automatic noticing-module is gone. Why? Will it return on the next retreat? I don't know. So Sad!

Thoughts about maps: They are there. They are going on my nerves. On the retreat, I already decided that I have to abandon them.
MCTB says this ain't easy, and that seems to be true. What am I to do? First idea: when those thoughts arise, put back this energy to something useful, such as investigating the current conditions. I try this. What happens? It works. But now (on the next cycle), random stuff happens instead. This anatta (no control) thing is just so annoying.

Thoughts about maps are often related to "this nana is bad, this nana is ok...".
More specifically, A&P is somewhat ok, equanimity is really good, and the rest is sort of annoying.
Since these things will be with me for some time, it might be best to befriend all of them.
So, it's official: As of today, N10.10 is my best friend (:

Right now, I'm back in some A&P. This cycle seems to be much more exciting than the last one. There is lots of energy, I feel like lots of stuff is happening, I'm bursting with energy, almost exploding. Shaking and trembling happens, both on and off cushion.
Not exactly NRE with reality, not exactly positive, but still bursting with some enthusiasm and the "I can and want to do anything"-energy.
If the dark side is equally powerful, the next weeks will be fun ~_x

There's one thing I modify now.
The compassion is becoming a bit tiresome or even misplaced, and the Mudita seems to be more 'right'.
So it's more focus on Mudita with a side-focus on compassion now, basically the reverse of the previous weeks.
In fact, I have already been shifting slowly to more Mudita.
Maybe the end-game of this is simply to always practice the one thing which feels most natural 'right now'.
Due to previous experiments with Mudita, I don't expect any life-changing things of this. Anyway, this is a lifelong process, I might as well get more familiar with it right now.

Edit: one more thing about the Mudita:
Originally, I learned this practice with the idea to rejoice about something.
So you repeat the phrases "I rejoice, I'm happy, I'm grateful, I'm content" while thinking about stuff you are grateful for etc.
(Metta and Karuna can be practised in a similar way.)
If you look a bit on the web, you can find some Christiany-inspired approaches, which take this practice to ridiculous details.
Anyway, when I started this practice, it... simply worked.
But now, it's a bit different.
Whenever I think about things to be grateful for, some Part of me claims that this is completely wrong, that there is simply nothing to be grateful. All those things I think about really aren't worth anything because... I don't know.
The conviction is strong, but the reasoning is hidden.
So, this is a bit weird, und then it's unclear what to do.
One way would be to try and find out the reasoning.
I expect that I will find out more about this, but that it's not necessary nor necessarily the best way to try this now.
Instead, I can still practice the Mudita - I simply omit the reasoning.
Repeating the phrases without any justification is enough.
Ultimately, I can't really think of any reason why one should really be happy for anything. Why is X a good thing? Well, I could make up reasons for and against it. For every reason, I can ask, again, so why is that good? This is sort of running into an infinite regress.
The easiest way out is to ignore the problem, and not to find an intellectual solution at all.
Same as practicing Metta, practicing Mudita is a simple decision without any further justification.
It seems that I'm able to recognize the Mudita as practice-worthy for whatever reason, and that is enough.
Viewed in another way, it's a big "fuck you reality, I'll rejoice whether or not there's a reason for it. take that!". LOL.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
11/8/16 7:52 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
From my corner, I'm enjoying reading increases in sensory clarity, compassion and equanimity (as in Shinzen) sort of "baked into" the writing here.  Implicit in this is increasing insight into the intricacy of fractals and meta-fractals (pardon the illiteration).  The shift towards doing only "what works" (I.e. only Mudita) would be an indicator of 10 Fetter 1st path according to my coach.  Working hard towards that myself right now.  Yippee!

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
11/9/16 8:01 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
From my corner, I'm enjoying reading increases in sensory clarity, compassion and equanimity (as in Shinzen) sort of "baked into" the writing here.  
Compassion and equanimity: I would assume that. Both are hard to verify, though.
Sensory clarity: I don't know what you mean by that term.

Implicit in this is increasing insight into the intricacy of fractals and meta-fractals (pardon the illiteration).
To be more precise, I'm rather slowly going back to my previous way of assessing the practice before I knew of any sort of maps:
Looking at the process in detail, and understanding its workings directly, unfiltered by any concepts about it.
Actually this was pretty good. I sometimes wonder if I had been better off without the MCTB-style maps, though I doubt it.
The shift towards doing only "what works" (I.e. only Mudita) would be an indicator of 10 Fetter 1st path according to my coach.  Working hard towards that myself right now.  Yippee!
I don't get it. What does Mudita have to do with 1st path? What does "doing only what works" have to do with 1st path? why 10-fetter 1st path and not MCTB first path... ?,_?

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
11/9/16 9:02 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
MCTB says this ain't easy, and that seems to be true. What am I to do?
Thoughts about maps: They are there. They are going on my nerves. On the retreat, I already decided that I have to abandon them.

Compassion! (emphasis mine)
Thoughts about maps are often related to "this nana is bad, this nana is ok...".
More specifically, A&P is somewhat ok, equanimity is really good, and the rest is sort of annoying.
Since these things will be with me for some time, it might be best to befriend all of them.
So, it's official: As of today, N10.10 is my best friend (:


The conviction is strong, but the reasoning is hidden.

The nana-rotation is boring, too. What's the point of practice if one can predict with impressive accuracy the conditions of the following days? Come on, I want more heart-breaking surprise, uplifting ecstasy in delusion, surprising plot-twists and what-not.

In particular, the automatic noticing-module is gone.

Sensory clarity!
Looking at the process in detail, and understanding its workings directly, unfiltered by any concepts about it.

This is what I mean: a maturation in perspective can certainly involve the dropping of outdated concepts.  Whether you use words from MCTB or not, noticing the patterns of the displays that occur in your mind as you persistently investigate is a good thing.
I don't get it. What does Mudita have to do with 1st path?

I was using Mudita as an example.  Not saying it has some direct or core link to Sotapana.  You have been increasingly discovering what works for you throughout this log, when to switch between Brahma Viharas, identifying and adjusting to life changes or mind stages, etc.  In the particular tradition I am working in, the Sotapana stage has to do with the integration of the 3 trainings leading to a 'critical mass' or turning point in which one becomes completely willing to adapt to reality, not ideals of how things should and should not be.  In other words, changing meditation techniques when necessary, not being stubborn because one had an ideal about how they should work.  For me its involved knowing I need to learn certain life skills and go through growing pains and not waiting around for meditation to help me with this.  Anyone who does some solid training would have examples that begin to approach this type of transition.
What does "doing only what works" have to do with 1st path? 

The Sotapanna has stopped the fetter of Silabbata Paramasa from arising.  This is the mishandling of Sila.  Aka believing in magical thinking, trying to stick with ideals rather than what works, not being flexible, not facing the truth, etc.  
why 10-fetter 1st path and not MCTB first path... ?,_?

A couple points here.  When I say "MCTB path" I mean Daniel's criteria, which diverge from most DhO claims after MCTB 2nd Path.  I don't think most claimants have achieved Daniel's definition of 3rd Path, including myself (possibly I have after recent developments, not sure).

That aside, the 10 Fetter paradigm I'm practicing in right now does not closely track perceptual events through a phenomenological lens.  It doesn't really care what insight knowledge you are in, or whether you have experienced a cessation.  The closest my teacher gets to referencing a nondual baseline is by saying that one "walks around in 1st jhana all the time."  Thus, it does indirectly test whether or not one has touched the unconditioned, by measuring the inevitable, positive after-images this non-experience leaves on the mind.  

This particular map measures a gradual reduction, through internal and external habit formation, of each fetter, on each level that they manifest (i.e. physical, mental, emotional, etc.).  The fetters may be worked on out of order, making 2nd and 3rd path difficult to differentiate between.  This can only occur through a synergy of development on all 3 axis'. 

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
11/22/16 2:25 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I was going to write a lengthy post about some things I noticed.
But then I realised that all those things (delaying notes until eq, nightmares, shaping the feeling-plane to infinite space, taking off the cap from the feeling-plane, the Big-Issue in the background, going back to Metta, the mind searching for non-equanimous, more nightmares...?) are probably just nana-local phenomena appearing every other cycle, which I have probably already mentioned again and again.

Instead, go and read this (, written by some guy who used to be active on DhO):
For me, there's no new information in there, and I did read this article a long time ago.
But when I randomly reviewed it, I noticed that it mentioned many aspects which, though quite obvious to me by now, are rarely explicitly mentioned in the traditional practice instructions.
Therefore I consider this article to be valuable.

In particular, this part is something I'm currently pondering about:

Whatever you need, whatever you want, the idea is to give it to yourself. Maybe it?ll feel like you?re /allowing/ it. Maybe it?ll feel like you?re /surrendering/ to it. Maybe it?ll feel like you?re /opening/ to it. Maybe it?ll feel like you?ve chosen to be /willing/ to feel it. Maybe you feel like you?re /evoking/ or /generating/ or /invoking/ it. Maybe you?ll feel like you?re /savoring/ it. Whatever works. There are many paths and stances and ways to go, within. Whatever works.

Examples of things you might want to go for: love, joy, safety, warmth, peace, comfort, ease, rest, opening, allowing, surrendering, safe and sleepy, curled up, comforted, accepted, loved, held, free.

Layer stuff, combine stuff, blend stuff, intertwine stuff, keeping playing and intuiting feelings and qualities that feel good and right for you. Be an emotional artist, conduct an emotional symphony.

How many things are there? Is gratitude the same as joy? Are they two distinct things? Are they two facets of the same thing? What does that even mean? Is the answer the same for different people?
How is "safety, warmth, comfort" related to Metta? Is it at all? If it's not, how do I know if it's relevant for me?
It seems to me to be a good idea to play with some of these things and maybe find out something new about what might be important for me.

For example, the idea of "introducing a smile into my mind" does something repeatable, but it seems to be different from all Brahmaviharas.
Likewise, the attitude that "of course this is how I feel right now" seems very "right" very often, but this, too, seems to be different from them Brahmaviharaz.
Why did the Buddha/the tradition preserve the 4 Brahmaviharas and stress their importance? Why not those other things?
I have no answer to this question, and I'm not sure if it's just in front of my nose and I'm simply overlooking it.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
11/29/16 3:41 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Currently in mid eq.
Some observations:
a) I find it increasingly funny how the mind will think that different nanas are actually important.
With proper practice, there is a different one here, every other day, and Eq is no exception. Why actually worry about this?
b) Many people in DhO report being in Eq for a long time, and having to work to reach it as their cutting edge or something.
I can absolutely not relate to that.
Rather, it's a nana like all the others. When I sit down, it's there clearly, and instantly.
It stays for a few days, then A&P arises out of it. Nothing special at all.
I have never experienced the 'long-Eq' that many some are talking about.
It lasts a bit longer than the others, though.
c) I saw 'Hidden Big Issue Stuff' again, slightly shifted once more. Yo Bro, long time no see.
Now, I'm really convinced that I'm close to permanently 'freeing' this thing. But I was sure about that many times, and it's never been true. Yay, patience.
d) There's a pattern of life giving me random hindrances which keep me from meditating much (or at all) whenever I'm in Eq. This is annoying.

So far, I have seen 3 cycles of Karuna, 1 (and a bit) of Mudita, and lots of Metta cycles.
I haven't done any Metta for more than half a year.
Lately, it often occurs to me that resuming it may be a good idea.
The same applies to Karuna.
So what should I do next?
Since I have some time on my hands, I will try the following:
Practice all four non-neutral BVs, plus some noting.
This only works with (at least) 4 hours of practice a day. So be it.

Why add the noting again? Several reasons:
a) I have very little concentration concerning BVs. And it seems that it doesn't increase over time. I simply suck at it =D
(If someone has any ideas about this, please chime in. However, I suppose that this is partly due to big hindrances which will take much more time to abandon.)
In contrast, with noting I get much more concentrated. Maybe the concentration from noting can carry over a bit to the BVs, which may actually improve training efficacy.
b) On the last retreat, some sort of 'automatic noticing module' was activated: I would automatically notice everything that happened in BV practice; without explicit notes, but there was still some action of noticing. I wasn't deliberately introducing it, though. After the retreat, it hardly happens. It seemed to me that this was a good thing. Maybe, doing some noting on the side may actually reintroduce this.
c) Noting is a good thing in itself. The resulting insight and calm is a good thing in itself. In the long run, I would want to reintroduce this anyway. So what's not to like?

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
12/22/16 10:46 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I implemented my plan to practice Mudita, Karuna and Metta on a round-robin scheme.
Something keeps me from reintroducing noting, though.
Although on paper it looks like it may be useful, I just don't feel like doing it. Hm.

Some more reflection on general meditation progress:
In the beginning, I learned that every session, the conditions can be different.
I also noticed that there can be many different conditions within each session.
Doing some retreats, one notices that there is a progression over broader categories of conditions spanning several days, aka different insight knowledges.
Now, what I'm slowly learning is that there are even broader movements, spanning weeks or even months.
The previous months have been rather boring, almost to the point of feeling trapped in an old record.
I would go through the insight knowledges again and again, each time learning a little bit, but not much.
Each time it would feel, like I was just reviewing stuff which I had already seen over and over.
But most recently, since the beginning of December, new stuff comes up.
Mainly, I'm drowning in tons of shame. And I obviously haven't yet adjusted to this, I don't even know how to make fun of this phenomenon yet m(
This is hard. It's really unpleasant, and it significantly lowers my abilities to get stuff done and to resist unskillful coping mechanism (eat this whole cake. now.)
Ultimately, I'm not really worried. I do notice that the thing is subtly different than before, and I'm confident that practice will guide me through it without me having to be particularly clever or anything.
But somehow I still need to deal with the current challenges this thing produces as side effects, and I feel a bit unprepared.
My first attempt at solving this is to make noting explicit, i.e. writing things down before doing them whatever they are.
I'm looking for a solution which is simple, universal and effective. It really shouldn't exist, but why not just try it...

Some other thing I wonder about: What is a good way to evaluate which practice to do right now?
If conditions change in the very short term, but also over the long long-term, then how do I know whether to practice Metta/Mudita/Karuna or my favourite collection of swear words? Possibly there's no easy solution here, but I still feel that there might be a significant difference between which practice would be most effective. Until I figure this out, I'll just continue doing all 3, and then random stuff.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
12/22/16 4:18 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
My two cents on practicing is that you need to test out stuff you don't like... at least every so often. It has a way of slapping you on the side of the head in ways you can't really predict. The important thing is to dedicate a block of time to it, at least 20 minutes but ideally 40 to 60 minutes. Otherwise the dose doesn't get high enough and you just kinda "play" that style of meditation.

Take noting for example, it has a way of taking away the "I'm doing this practice" side of things that comes with other methods. You just note what happens. You don't care what happens, you just note what happens. That's a totally different attitude toward practice than cultivating metta, etc.

Take metta for example, it has a way of taking away the  "I'm special, only I feel this way" side of things. You notice how non-objective we are about our own wants and needs -- it feels like something that should drive our life, but actually everyone has the same kind of visceral desires and feelings of lack. It really takes off when it gets to the point where you say "wow, this is what shame feels like. Everyone that feels shame feels like this. Since I'm feeling shame anyway, may I take on the world's feeling of shame so that can be rid of it for a while. May it all come to me during this sit. May the rest of the world experience relief while I take on their shame. " (That later part is "taking and sending" practice, which is a another form of metta.)

Take tranquility for example, it has a way of highlighting how we are our own worst enemy and make things needlessly complicated for ourselves. We sit and our only goal is to relax and be tranquil. Yet our stuff keeps coming up. Part of our mind notices the "ill will" and it seems like part of our mind/body isn't effected by ill will, so we go to the not-ill-will part of our experience with our intention. We sigh, we let go, we relax, we feel it. We go into that feeling of relief and it deepens... yet before you know it there is another ill will -- the same one but stronger or weaker, or a different one -- that somehow became our focus of attention. So we repeat the process. This "letting go of ill will" is a totally different training than the other two.

So I would go with the "do all three" approach, but just make sure you aren't switching around too early. Like a good workout, you need to get to your cutting edge and hang out there for a while, regardless of the specific meditation practice you are doing.

Best wishes!

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
1/9/17 3:59 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Hi Shargrol!

I read your post several times to really understand what you are getting at.
I then realized that although I consider Metta, Mudita and Karuna to be separate practices, I practice them in almost the same fashion. They seem to be essentially the same thing, with similar effects. All the strategies which I have developed work in all three domains.
So I concluded that this may be a good reason to add some variety. To make for an easier beginning, I reintroduced noting with only 30 minutes. So usually I'll do something like that:
30/30 noting/Metta
60 Mudita
30/30 Metta/Karuna
30/30 whatever

About the 'get to your cutting edge'-thing: I'm not sure if this is actually a thing.
How would I know that I'm getting to my cutting edge? The only thing I notice is that in longer meditation sittings (>40 min), the interruptions become more frequent, and I need to create more motivation to actually get back to the exercise. Does that mean that no progress is achieved by doing only 30 minute sittings? I don't know. I would actually assume that shorter sittings are more efficient because the 30 minute sittings seem much more focused.

Another cycle seems to have passed. I've seen about one every month since August or so.
At the moment, the content is rather challenging. But not too challenging, and the difficult things are only temporary, so this doesn't make me worry. As long as there is a general upwards trend, none of this seems worrisome.

What seems more disturbing is the question of how long I need to be doing this.
Sometimes in high eq, there is a sense of unblending from an otherwise completely invisible but possibly very important Part.
It feels as if most of my character is built upon a Part which is completely invisible 99% of the time, but rules most of my life, and not in a good way. Therefore, it seems crucial to unblend from this thing. But if it takes hours of meditation each day, only to get a glimpse of partly unblending from it for a few seconds every 2 weeks or so, then how far away is that? My guess: I haven't even really started and this is not at all doable this life. o_O
So this seems like a good reason to completely freak out, which I haven't got around to yet. m(

Another topic:
In Buddhist suttas, the topic of effort is often discussed with analogies to the tension of the strings of a musical instrument.
Maybe this is a problem with the translation, but for me the word 'effort' evokes mostly problematic ideas.
Basically, when I hear 'effort', this always has the connotation of 'tension'.
If I try to do something with 'effort', but without 'tension', then I'm not actually applying any effort.
But my real-life experience is that to do anything with 'tension' is bad.
If you can feel the tension, it means that what you actually feel is the excess-tension.
If you can do something with the least amount of tension required to do the job perfectly, then it feels completely effortless.
In meditation, this seems to be very similar.
So I always try to let go of any notion that any sort of effort is required. The challenge, then, is to still follow the instructions without dozing off. How to do this? I have no good idea. The main part seems to be to actually remember to do it. Maybe another element is to form a specific intention to do it. The rest seems to depend on the current conditions.
The point I'm trying to get across is that I may need to erase the concept of "effort" from my vocabulary, and replace it with something else, or maybe drop it without replacement. The notion of "effort" simply has never proven to be helpful for me, but often sent me in a troublesome direction without merit.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
1/9/17 6:09 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
The specific amount of time differs for different people, but yeah the cutting edge for you is probably where things get difficult between 30-40 minutes.

It's kind of like working out with weights or running, it's the last few lifts, the last few miles that makes you stronger the next time. If you don't challenge yourself a little each time (note I said a little, because you don't want to burn out either), then things tend to plateau which becomes boring and then people quit.

Spending 5 to 10 minutes in the zone where things get a little difficult is actually most efficient. You've done the warm up, now challenge yourself a little. 

Some people don't get to this zone until 45 minutes in, one person I know only sat 20 minutes a day and made very good progress  -- so no rules, just something to notice. Adding a few minutes at the end can make a big difference.

BTW, I agree it can be hard to find the right balance of "effort". I like to use workout metaphors because it conveys some intentional action, some challenge, but recognizes the need for not going to0 far and having rest periods in between workouts. 

and also BTW, it's normal to have the thoughts "Ill never get this done" especially when you look at personal experience from the inside. But it's almost always the case that other people around you see more progress than we see for ourselves. Like "oh that shargrol, he's much less of an asshole these days" whereas I'm like "my mind is in chaos and I'm so reactive!!!" 

As always, you do what you can, trying to balance your life in as many dimensions as possible, recognizing that there is no such thing as perfect practice, perfect progress, or a perfect person. Just keep going "straight ahead" as they say in Zen. emoticon

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
1/9/17 8:03 AM as a reply to shargrol.
the effort and effortelssness are like in and outbreath to the max, means when you finally have internal breath then you can fall throught the wall to the pit(under the bottom of outbreath) or with inbreath you can return your awareness or pull it back up(from chest). Last breath it is called, no returning back. Its a good thing and a stage. Eventually it gives the one-movement you can use without going through that complicated process but again with its own challenges comes to surface.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
1/23/17 8:42 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I'm nearing the end of another cycle.
Current practice scheme:
1st sitting: 30/30 minutes noting/karuna
2nd sitting: 60 minutes mudita
3rd+ sitting: 60 minutes metta
In each of these, I have modified the words a bit to provide for some additional challenge.
Besides, I have added the explicit wish of "May I be able to drop the tension" which so far produces no results but some agitation, and generally feels possibly right.
One note on noting: the 30 minutes seem not enough to pull me into 'real' insight territory, but enough to 'pull out of' content, so it may be time well spent, so I'll keep this for now.
Other than that, not much new stuff here.

One thing I still wonder about is what to do in non-practice times, i.e. 24/7.
The most important criterion is that it is doable.
That means, it should be neither too boring/seemingly without results (in which case I won't remember to do it) nor too agitating (in which case I will not want to do it, and willpower cannot drive this practice 24/7.
Ideally, it should be neutral to pleasant without any adverse side effects.
Maybe this thing doesn't exist. Hm.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
2/2/17 9:17 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
The Brahmavihara practice is based on words.
(Though there are ways to practice it without words.)
What is interesting is that sometimes, which words you use makes a big difference.
Sometimes it seems to not make any difference at all.
Sometimes it's a small difference.
There seems to be no structure to those differences, and one is left experimenting for oneself.
So far, my experiments have yielded hardly any positive results, when I deviated from the standard instructions.
I made the following observations:
1) I noticed that I could practice some form of Karuna with the phrase "May I have compassion for X".
2) There are lots of Metta phrases which have a similar effect.

In the past 2 weeks, I experimented with a different way to change the phrases:
addressing oneself with 'you' instead of 'I'.
As an example, you could change
"May I be happy" to "Bernd, may you be happy" or "May you be happy, Bernd."
"may I have compassion with myself" to "Bernd, may you have compassion with yourself" or "May I have compassion with you, Bernd".

On the surface, adapting Mudita seems to be more tricky. I tried changing
"I rejoice" to "Bernd, I rejoice about you" or "I rejoice that you're here Bernd"
which has quite a different effect, and it seems a positive one.

This seems to be a promising avenue which I'll explore for the following weeks. Try it for yourself and see if it makes a difference.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
2/27/17 7:56 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Maps have upsides and downsides.
On the upside, I get more faith and trust in the process.
On the downside, I may try to 'plan meditation progress' and this can go wrong.
Here is an example: Towards the end of february, there was an important date.
I didn't want to spend that in painful dark night stages, so I looked at the calender about a month before, and tried to calculate how much meditation I would have to do to prevent that.
For a while, that seemed to work, but then I got sick, and lost track of what was happening.
When sickness was over, I was completely confused as to what was happening. I let myself be fooled by a review of old cycles, and was quite sure that I was in some sort of equanimity, so I intentionally mostly stopped practicing.
But in hindsight it seems that I spent a week in very bad Reobservation u_U which was likely the worst reobservation in more than 6 months. And I prolonged that period by not meditating much m(
Anyway, now that's over too, and I was quite lucky that reobs didn't derail my life more.
What's the take-home message here? I'm note sure. Maybe 'if in doubt, just meditate more'. Only that in this case, I wasn't actually in doubt. And that seems to make the reobs-experience even more intense, but I'm not sure if it leads to any more insight.

I'm still experimenting with addressing myself with 'you' and trying out different phrases. This still seems promising. I read Noah's experiments about the tantra exemplar voodoo thing, and some more stuff about this, and decided to refrain from trying this out right now.
It seems to me that those deity yoga traditions may be much more powerful (or at least similar to) than what I'm doing. But it also seems that they may be quite unstabilizing and I don't need that right now.
So I'll just try to increase the dose with my current practice and continue with that as long as it continues to bring obvious results.

On a side note, I get really frustrated by trying to practice more than 2 things at a time. So I'm just doing a bit of noting (30 minutes) and Mudita (as much time as possible, ranging from 30 minutes to several hours). I'm still adding in a bit of Metta/Karuna when I'm returning from distractions or simply whenever I feel like it might be a good idea.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
2/27/17 8:26 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Haha if it makes it seem any safer or more grounded I have switched to relating to loving humans in my imaginal space.  The only difference then between this and typical metta would be that I'm purposely waiting for information back from these beings (not just giving it out).  I guess focusing on intimate, personal attachment specifically is also a difference. 

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/8/17 8:32 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
Haha if it makes it seem any safer or more grounded I have switched to relating to loving humans in my imaginal space.  The only difference then between this and typical metta would be that I'm purposely waiting for information back from these beings (not just giving it out).  I guess focusing on intimate, personal attachment specifically is also a difference. 
Yeah, I guess there are ways of making the practice safer or more adventurous .P
Still, there seems to be a lot of weird stuff about imagining entities. Look at this to see what I mean:
This seems to me as an example of what happens when these things are reinvented outside of an established tradition. You end up with weird things with questionable utility.

Actually, I'm not so much concerned with stability or instability. Notwithstanding hardcore retreats my mind usually won't produce many 'special effects'. Rather, I see some more disadvantages with the practice.
In particular, I think you are overestimating how powerful it really is. You said you hope to make the state the default within half a year or so. I would bet that it takes MUCH longer than that, and possibly forever.

There are some other things which make me refrain from the practice:
- I wouldn't want to try this practice without a teacher I personally know
- This imagination-thing doesn't come easy for me. At the moment, I prefer my practice to be rather 'stupid' (:
- It seems to me that a prerequisite to this deity yoga thing is lots of insight into emptiness, i.e. this is a rather advanced practice, and I wouldn't benefit from it so much at the moment. Maybe later.
- Every practice needs some 'startup-time' where you get familiar with it. At the moment, I'm content with what I'm doing, so I'm very reluctant to change this.

As to intimate, personal attachment being different to pure brahmaviharas:
Yes, I suppose that this is the case.
However, I feel that such an element is introduced by addressing oneself with 'you' instead of 'I'.
I've decided to stay with this mode of practice for the remainder of march.
After that, I may investigate if there is yet another way (3rd-person) to address myself.

Notes on current practice: I'm trying to make the mind more busy. (Inspiration: Ajahn Tong's noting technique makes you memorize your position in a sequence of touching points.) In the same way, I'm building a longer phrase-sequence, which takes some mind-power to keep track of. Maybe this is a good idea.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
3/13/17 7:14 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I edited some of my older posts which I didn't like any more.
When rereading some of those old posts, I noticed that I can now hardly relate to my practice descriptions from the first 1.5 years or so.
It's like I'm reading descriptions from another person.
Judging by this, it seems like I've completely changed my whole character in only 3 years.
This is obviously not true, but the impression is still impressive.

Also, to quote katy:
Metta tackles subtle and gross ill-will and craving, and it also breaks down conceit, which is said to be apparent in people working on fourth path in the fetter model. Personally, metta seems like pure sanity to me now. :]
I find this to be true.
In the beginning of the practice it often feels like "Nice, I can say phrases and then stuff happens and this is like totally awesome, u no?". But the more I do of it, the more I think to myself "This Brahmavihara business is just sanity. Every one of those BVs is so obviously better than it not being there. I wouldn't want to bang my head against walls, and in the same way, I wouldn't want to do ill-will, cruelty, indifference or envy etc. Why do I even have to explain this to people? Really, can't you just see it?????"

Practice notes:
I read some of shargrol's posts on other threads.
In particular this one:
That can happen. Basically, when there is doubt, then we start to "game" the practice by focusing on things like "am I practicing for enough time?" and "was that good practice or not?". Both of those are beside the point.

I remember times when I was doubtful and trying to force progress... I was doing the counting the breath from one to ten meditation method and for a few weeks I rarely lost count. But I was trying way way way too hard and really just crushing the natural awarenesss of my mind into being a counting machine. So while I put in time and had "successful" practice, I made no progress and if anything was moving backwards.

Sometimes less is more. The point is to sit and be aware of your actual experience -- sensations, cravings, emotions, and thoughts. You can use the breath or noting to help keep you present, but it should be a presence that allows all of those four things to arise and be seen.

Negative stuff is supposed to come up. That's what needs to be seen. Any form of greed for certain kinds of experience, aversion for other kinds of experience, or a desire to tune out other kinds of experience. None of those is equanimity with what is arising in experience.

So successful practice can be short or long, but it should put you face to face with all of your imperfections. You should be seeing how your own greed, aversion, and confusion prevents you from simply sitting and being a breathing body for the length of your sit. All of us have those cravings that prevent us from doing this simple thing. It's amazing when you think about it, but that's what makes practice so interesting.

Why is it so complicated to simply sit? That's what you need to see.

If practice is showing you all the different ways you have ill will for simply sitting, that's good practice. Investigate that sense of ill will. Can you see how your own attitudes make things complicated and cause suffering?

If metta practice is showing ways that you resist having good intentions for your self and others, that's good practice. Investigate that sense of ill will. Can you see how not having good intentions complicates your relationship to yourself and others?

Time on the cushion >plus intelligent investigation of the causes of suffering< is very good practice.

Practice doesn't just "give" you results or allow your to avoid the mess. You need to participate in practice and discover your own path through the mess.

After reading some of those, I realized that, again, I needed to relax a lot.
Consequently, I experienced the most relaxed re-observation days in a long time.
Apart from that, I feel a bit... depersonalized lately, but not in an unpleasant way, just weird.
I'm looking at some memories or some thoughts and just think "hm. Weird thoughts. Are those mine? Why? And those memories. Why would I recall them? What does that have to do with me?"

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
4/15/17 3:08 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I'm writing less often, but I'm practicing a lot. 2 more cycles since last post.
The thing is, there's little to nothing new to write about.
I still follow my custom mudita method, but only 50% of the time. The other half is for more metta, which I have neglected for about a year.

I'm getting better at practicing much which hopefully is helpful.
Useful metrics for judging progress completely elude me. There are some nice signs, but I doubt my own skill to correctly judge them. So I'm left on faith.
Strangely, this actually works so far. Probably because there's nothing else left lol.

I'd really like to write something but even forming the possible sentences in my mind feels like just a rehash of stuff which I've written before again and again. The actual practice is (mostly) not boring, but continuing this practice log feels sort of pointless at the moment.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
5/16/17 5:39 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.

HOLY FUCK WHAT WAS THAT????????????????
I THINK I'M DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(well, almost)

Okay, now with fewer capital letters.
I did more practice and then a 10 day metta retreat.
I intended to use this retreat to experiment with Noah's exemplar tantra thing.
But starting on day 2, the thing did me rather than me doing it.
I used the exemplar tantra thing as fallback default, but large stretches of time, I did other stuff such as purely repeating phrases, and in particularly lots of investigation of the possibility space. In other words, much of it felt like a giant focusing session, in surround sound and high-resolution.
First things first, here's my summary of how I understood the exemplar tantra.
(Only the first phase, I think I'm not ready for the other 2 yet.)
-Imagine ideal parents (can be extended to ideal anythings).
-They can take any shape. I usually can't visualize too well, so for me they remain vague forms if at all.
-Still, one can try to imagine touch, sound, sight etc.
-3 key notions should be reflected on:
1) they know me
2) they love me
3) they protect me
It's often helpful to use all sorts of similar phrases:
they care for me, they're there for me, they want me to be happy, they appreciate me, they trust me, I'm important for them, they know everything about me, they know me better than I know myself, they hold me in safety and comfort, they touch me with kindness... use your creativity and listen to the felt sense, what it is that you actually need.
When that is established, add standard BrahmaVihara phrases originating from those beings.

Now, to the retreat:
Day 1)
The first day I spend being quite frustrated. The focusing-space opens up and some things happen, but I feel that there's no significant change here.
In the evening I am very determined and quite desperate that something has to change and that I absolutely cannot accept any alternative.
Something changed suddenly, but not sure what it was. I went to sleep.
Days 2-5)
Lots of big body shifts. Every few hours I feel like a completely different person.
With every shift, I stay a while to protect it and feel where it leads to next (Focusing step 6).
I don't feel like going into details. Lots of stuff around "being kind to myself" "being safe" "being allowed to do (or not do) stuff" "being worthy of love" etc. Pretty standard stuff I guess.
I realize how far I've come. I'm a fucking magician. The concentration gets higher and higher, then focusing space gets more and more detailed, I can do all sorts of stuff in the mind. I imagine things, I inquire about things, I try things, I change things, I experiment with different ways to view reality... I realize that hardly anyone can do this stuff. "you're so awesome, bro". lol.
Many times I exit the meditation hall, christopher titmuss is sitting there, looking joyfully on his laptop, like an 8-year old boy who has discovered the joy of video games. lmao.
Days 6-8)
Suddenly, the mind recalls that there is suffering. The big changes have happened, and now the rest of the system tries to adapt itself to the changes. All sorts of suffering parts show up. Agitation and energy goes through the roof. Reobservation kicks me really hard, and I think that it was all in vain. I have a very hard time to fall asleep but despite very little sleep I'm never tired.
Days 9-10)
Equanimity. I'm overflowing with energy, shaking and gratitude. I'm thinking about a million things which I'm sooo grateful for, and a million things that I want to do when I come home. I'm swimming in joy.
Nothing in this is balanced. Agitation is over 9000.
Typical bitter-sweet feeling on the whole.

Since coming back, it goes back and forth, and still continues to change.
How do you cope with your life if suddenly you seem to be a completely different person?

However, I expect this to be just another beginning, although a very nice and impressive one.
I have never experienced something like this, and I don't expect to ever experience anything even remotely similar ever again.
But the rest of the system is still pretty much unchanged and remains rather dysfunctional.
Very excited to see what comes next. I'm obviously still in a very agitated state, lots of shaking and jumping around even. I might want to let the energy cool down a bit in the next few days before taking up intensive practice again.

(I just noticed that this is the 100th post in this thread. Awesome.)

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
5/17/17 8:17 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Path shift!! Plus the obnoxiousness of review A :/

as you said on my thread, it may not be the technique specifically that did it, but rather the fact that you changed techniques which removed the subconscious obstacle.  Or at least this is how it happens for me.

ill take you up on that cone some time emoticon

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
5/18/17 5:42 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
Path shift!! Plus the obnoxiousness of review A :/
No, not a path shift. Nothing insight related here. Just a bunch of really important body shifts, i.e. change on the 'relative' or 'morality' level. As a result, lots of free energy, amplified by high concentration and probably some other factors.
I've been reexperiencing nanas 4-11 (between 1st and 2nd path?) for ages - nothing new here.

as you said on my thread, it may not be the technique specifically that did it, but rather the fact that you changed techniques which removed the subconscious obstacle.
The more I reflect on what happened the more I realize that the single ingredients have often appeared partly in the past. I suspect that the retreat was simply the final straw in a multi-year process of reaching this new equilibrium.
Still, I find the technique to be really nice. I suspect that the 'safety' aspect of it was really important, but that's just another guess.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
5/18/17 9:09 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Yea I know what you mean by morality shift.  I've had a few happen in the past year or two.

RE the technique, I don't know whether it's different from metta or not since when I read the pali canon some suttas make it sound like metta is about safety & intimacy & others make it sound more impersonal.  But yeah it worked for me so I'm glad.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
6/9/17 3:06 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
9 June 2017

Another cycle completed.
After the last retreat, I found it really hard to get back to regular meditation for some reason.
I would always find other stuff to do and excuses why I wouldn't want to sit down.
Eventually, that passed, but it took a week or so.
In the beginning, this was really hard. There was still some residual enthusiasm from the end of the retreat, but also I was being fried in pain. I was lost in suffering for days on end. Though I somehow noticed what was happening, I was still drowning in it. I would feel like I was actually burned, my heart pierced on a burning stick. yay.
One of the weirder things that happened: One morning I wake up and still in semi-sleep, I hear a voice inside me saying "trust me, I know what I'm doing". lol. whatever.

I say phrases about the ideal parents, and then notice that it's not actually easy.
What is it that is not easy?
I don't know, so I go very slowly over the phrases, and notice that something is happening at the beginning.
It gets easier after that, when I realize that I have the ideal parents to take care of whatever unrest is happening there.

Another time I notice that there is still something that's really bad, and I'm not allowed to see it, because it's so bad.
Over several sittings I try to ensure that I get the support of my ideal parents, and then I can suddenly go there, and then it's actually no big deal at all. lol.

So far, this isn't actually too exciting. Just revisiting lots of things I've already seen, and - or so I thought - solved.
All of this felt like the progress from the retreat was completely undone, although I didn't actually believe this.
After the first half of the cycle, I felt like the undoing was undone and new stuff was happening.
Again, reading my descriptions makes it clear to me right now that it was just another iteration on the same stuff, iterating everything just by a bit.
The only notable difference is that this time I processed everything with the aid of my ideal parents which changes the process just a little bit.

I see worry pumped up by excitement. My ideal parents encourage me to turn that stuff up to 11 and experience it with full intensity and more. Then, my IP go on to encourage me to investigate this thing in various ways, and they promise to stick with me through the entire experience.
Sometimes, it helps to conjure a mental image of whatever is happening, especially if you don't actually know what is happening, but would like to. In this case, it is possible to make the IP part of the image. In the image, the IP give me a long rope, which I can use to pull myself back to them. Nice! What also works to pull me back to them is questions. When I'm lost in pain and the connection is lost, I can just ask "are they still here" or "what would it feel like if they were here?" or "how do I know if they're still here?" or something similar.
With the image, it's also possible to take various perspectives. So I could speak to myself from the role of the ideal parents, or I could speak to the ideal parents, or I could take a look at the whole situation as a neutral observer.
If I stumble upon questionable beliefs, I can ask them if they agree.
Sometimes, putting those ideas into sentences can get quite convoluted. "My IP encourage me to investigate what part X of me - that doesn't want part Y to do A - wants to not happen" ...

Other details: "They like me" seems to be subtly different to "They rejoice about me".

And another observation: It seems like in each cycle there is (at least) one point where I would let go of judgement and just be with stuff neutrally. According to the maps, this would happen at the beginning of equanimity. But it often doesn't. Sometimes, it happens already at some point in reobservation, sometimes it doesn't really happen until the middle of equanimity ('falling back down'). This time it happened already towards the end of desire for deliverance, which means that I experienced the whole of reobservation in some sort of equanimity. I recall that according to MCTB there is some model which groups nanas 9-11 as one stage, and from this perspective, that idea seems reasonable.

The equanimity nana is especially impressive.
It is slow, detailed and broad. Parts of it conjure impressive internal imagery.
Parts of it conjure a weird kind of fear that feels like it cannot be controlled and I'm going crazy, but it lasts only for a few seconds or minutes each time.
The whole thing feels really psychedelic. It's like my mind implements this weird google pattern recognition AI deep dream thingy.
At the end, I'm impatiently looking for the 11.11.11(...) moment. I miss it.

All in all, the whole thing feels like the main thing is done, and now I'm just very slowly riding down a long downhill slope.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
6/24/17 3:12 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
24 June 2017

And another cycle is almost done. (Currently 11.9.8 or something, lol)
I made a small change to the technique: focus on the sense of safety and explore its nuances.
Result: I find several levels of residual restlessness, which are then dissolved.
Next: Swap ideal parents to ideal guardians or something. I suspect that ideal parents are still too close to actual parents. Maybe the tibetans got it right with their freaky gods, lol.

Things continue to happen.
In the beginning, some impressive stuff would show up in weird imagery, but without obvious changes.
Examples: prisons, laser-eyed girls with poison syringes, giant fireballs to dissolve the whole world... fun stuff.
Also again and again, I drown in anonymous bad states, only to notice some hours later that ideal beings can of course get me out of there. Very nice.

On the whole, practice at the moment feels rather exhausting, as if I'm forcefully banging my head against a wall because I really finally want to be 'done' with it. This is probably both unhelpful, natural and temporary, so no reason to worry about it.
In fact, reading my own notes reassures me that this is temporary and can change any moment.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
7/19/17 11:14 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
19 July 2017

Another cycle may be finished. Currently maybe at 4.11.
Nanas are weirdly predictable.
4-10 take 8 hours each, 1 hour per subnana.
11 takes 2 hours for each subnana, except 11.11 which takes 4.

This thing keeps getting harder. This cycle was similarly unpleasant to the one before that, but felt even more challenging on the whole. If I didn't have a ton of faith, the previous weeks would probably have made me quit. However, I struggle to explain what actually was the issue. I can't actually remember anything specific (except for some weird dreams and being pretty grumpy most of the time).

I think, this is how practice may proceed:
Step 1: Repeat some innocent-sounding phrase for some time.
Step 2: Something changes.
Step 3: Mind is like "Well, I wouldn't do that." *rollback*
Step 4: Repeat Steps 1-3 for some time. Then do step 1,2 and jump to step 5.
Step 5: Mind is like "Well, I warned you. This is what happens now."
Step 6: Mind churns out all the stuff that was previously protected, but isn't any more due to the recent change.
Step 7: Continue practice, suffer for some time.
Step 8: Realize that it's no big deal actually. What was all the fuzz about? lmao.
Step 9: Mind is like "You underestimate my powers" *jump to step 6.
Step 10: Mind skipped step 9. back to step 1.

Technique-wise I continue to use ideal guardians, and similar notions. I have quit using ideal parents, because this notion seems to involve too many different related ideas, and I like to keep things as simple as possible.
Additionally, I often reflected on what it means to 'treat myself kindly' and tried to turn that into phrases. Again, this seems to result in a slightly different effect, possibly relevant.

The ACT-book by Stephen Hayes mentions the life question, which I have probably mentioned before.
They state that there exists sort of a switch in the mind between 'non-acceptance' and 'acceptance'.
In my own experience, the notion probably has some merit, but it's very hard to understand what's really going on there.
The presentation in the ACT-book seems much too simplistic and somewhat off.
Anyway, recently this idea again became relevant. Everytime I 'jump over the switch', this thing seems essentially done, and I'm quite confident that I just have to 'wait' although at the same time nothing's actually seemingly solved. ...?
Shortly after that, I realize that the switch has jumped back, but I don't actually notice when that happens.
Yesterday, I had a weird meditation session, where I suddenly realized that I could at will modify the switch.
So I moved it back and forth, and could observe the difference between the two states.
The tricky issue is: how do I know if I'm really here or over there? What if it's not a binary distinction at all?
Or possibly it's a binary distinction, but the distinguishing line keeps shifting in my mind?
Or is this random noise rather than relevant?
... wtf

Also: impatience.

RE: Bernd's Metta adventure
8/10/17 1:35 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
9 August 2017

Another cycle has ended, already several days ago. (Currently at 5.8 or something)
But the nanas become more and more meaningless and their characteristics often less pronounced.
In fact, their only use is to vaguely control meditation hours.

I continue to use the method of 'repeatedly state the intention to be kind to myself'.
This makes everything go smoother, similar but different to the standard metta phrases. Why didn't I think of this earlier? Probably I did, but dismissed it is ineffective. Many things are surprisingly effective in the long run while not doing anything on the first try, it seems.

What happens? Mostly, nothing. Big, or even little, stuff won't show up. Everything seems hidden or not really there. Overall feeling is sad or disappointed or something similar, and rather dark. It seems like the real issues are hiding, and I'm stuck in this dark-but-not-really-bad foggy nothing-land. Occasionally, a well of joy springs up from nowhere, only to cease again after a short time.
Besides, I feel slightly nauseous almost all the time. In fact, I've been eating much less for some weeks now, without being hungry.
This meditation thing is such a strange journey.

Aside: I notice I've become a bit lazy during sits, i.e. too often moving around. This is probably what happens if you emphasize practice time over quality (:
And in order to avoid impatience, find something else to do about which you can become impatient... m(